Shore Officials Oppose Death Penalty Repeal

BERLIN — As expected, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley this week announced his latest plan to introduce legislation to repeal the death penalty in Maryland and believes he has the votes this time in the General Assembly, but the bill will have little support from lawmakers on the lower shore.

On Tuesday, O’Malley held a press conference in Annapolis presenting his plan to introduce legislation to abolish capital punishment in Maryland. A similar effort in 2009 did not pass and resulted in a compromise of sorts that limited the use or threat of the death penalty. This year, however, the governor believes he has the votes to repeal the death penalty in Maryland.

“It would seem to me that, especially in tough times, if there is something that we’re doing through our government that is expensive and does not work, than we should stop doing it,” O’Malley said. “The death penalty is expensive and does not work. And for that reason alone, I believe we should stop doing it.”

In essence, Maryland stopped “doing it” years ago. The last execution in Maryland was Wesley Baker in 2005. In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was up to the individual states to determine their own policies on the death penalty. The Maryland General Assembly reinstated the death penalty by legislation in 1994 and since then, just five convicted felons have been put to death.

The first convicted murderer put to death by lethal injection after Maryland reinstated the death penalty had direct ties to Worcester County. John Thanos, whose two-state murder spree in 1990 started with a shooting just off Route 50 in Whaleyville, was put to death in 1994.

O’Malley said on Tuesday he believes the death penalty is not a deterrent for violent crime.

“The death penalty does not work in terms of preventing violent crime and the taking of human life,” he said. “If you look over 30 or 40 years, the death penalty was on the books, and yet Baltimore still became the most violent and addicted city in America. Having the death penalty on the books did nothing to keep the homicides from rising.”

While O’Malley believes he has the votes this time to push through the repeal, those votes will not be coming from a pair of lower shore lawmakers.

Senator Jim Mathias (D-38) and Republican Mike McDermott (R-38B) each said this week they continue to support the death penalty. McDermott said the debate is somewhat moot because of the infrequency with which Maryland utilizes the death penalty now.

“It’s a funny thing in Maryland to debate something we never do,” he said. “The state hasn’t put anybody to death in nearly a decade and there are only five inmates on death row right now. Basically, there’s a moratorium in place right now because the state doesn’t have the procedures in place, and that’s not likely to change any time soon.”

A common point made by advocates of repealing the death penalty is the chance of putting to death a wrongly convicted inmate and there appears to be some merit to the argument. Since the Supreme Court ruling in 1978, 11 inmates have been removed from death row in Maryland for a variety of reasons. In some cases, the accused had their sentences overturned on appeal and were sent back to prison for life without parole. A few were totally exonerated including a case in 1993 when an inmate was determined to be innocent by DNA evidence. Nonetheless, lower shore lawmakers believe there are safeguards against wrongly putting to death a convicted felon.

“I appreciate those who advocate on behalf of those unjustly convicted, but we have bent over backwards to make sure we don’t put somebody to death by accident,” said McDermott. “There are safeguards in place to ensure that.”

Like McDermott, Mathias continues to be an advocate for keeping the death penalty.

“I support the death penalty,” he said. “I do believe there are cases that warrant the use. In extreme cases, we can incarcerate them for life, but we can’t be sure they won’t kill again. We have to be concerned for our correctional officers.”

McDermott said without the death penalty, there would be no hammer to hang over the heads of the state’s most violent criminals.

“I’d still like to have the option open,” he said. “Without a mechanism in place, or the threat of the death penalty, I’m frankly fearful for our correctional officers. We need to have that option.”

Mathias said the death penalty is an important judicial tool.

“I do believe it’s a deterrent,” he said. “I also believe it’s a tool a prosecutor needs. Without the threat of the death penalty, it could be difficult to get sentences of life without parole.”

2 comments on “Shore Officials Oppose Death Penalty Repeal

  1. It’s striking how this article does not mention a core provision of the legislation, which sets aside $500K of the funds that will be saved for a fund to help improve services for the families of homicide victims. Also, last year an Anne Arundel County jury refused to sentence to death a murderer who was on trial for killing a prison guard. If we can’t use it then, then when will we ever use it? Enough talk. Its time to stop wasting money looking tough on crime. By abolishing the death penalty, in addition to more funds to help victims families, additional resources would be freed to help reduce violent crime before it happens. Governor O’Malley spoke about that at his press conference on this topic. Let’s stop with the scare tactics and bluster and do something that actually works. Repealing the death penalty is step #1.

  2. O’Malley Dead Wrong on Death Penalty

    From; Dudley Sharp, Houston Texas, 713-622-5491

    Brief bio at bottom

    Lies, ignorance or idiocy: Gov. O’Malley’s Speech on Repealing Capital Punishment in Maryland (1)

    To govern is, we hope, to be knowledgeable about what our leaders speak and to lead with truth.

    Gov. O’Malley fails those standards.

    The Gov. stated: ” . . . .”for every 8.7 Americans sent to death row, there has been one innocent person exonerated.”

    Laughably absurd.

    If we go by the most fraudulent of anti death penalty claims, wherein they claim 142 have been exonerated from death row during the post 1972 period when 8200 have been sent to death row, that is 1 out of 57.7.

    Or reality. Possibly we have sent 40 actual innocents to death row, which is 1 innocent sent to death row out of every 205 so sentenced. All have been released.

    1 out of 205.

    The governor was off by 2356%.

    Not surprisingly, the Governor claims he get his figures from the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment – the Commission appointed by . . . Gov. O’Malley.

    Those in Maryland know, as do we all, that living murderers harm and murder, again. Executed ones do not.

    Nationally, since 1973, at least 14,000 additional innocents have been murdered by those murderers the government has allowed to murder, again — recidivist murderers.

    Again, nationally, since 1973, depending upon review, we have allowed an additional 40,000-200,000 innocents to be murdered by those criminals the government has released on parole or probation or other early release policies, while many or most of those criminals were under government supervision.

    In reality, contrary to what the Governor says, we don’t know the cost differences between the death penalty and life without parole in Maryland. The costs the Governor mentions do not reflect an accurate, apples to apples comparison, as Marylanders deserve.

    More responsible governance

    Since 1976, Virginia has executed 72% (108) of those sentenced to death and did so within 7.1 years after sentencing, on average — a responsible and cost savings protocol, which could be implemented in Maryland, if both justice and taxpayer funds were more respected and if the Governor and other anti death penalty leaders had not been constant obstructionists to responsible reforms.

    Of course the death penalty deters.

    All prospects of a negative consequence deter some. It is a truism. Even some anti death penalty leadership are honest enough to concede that the death penalty deters. The only outstanding question, is: “Does the death penalty deter more than life without parole?”. The anecdotal evidence says that it does.

    Not surprisingly, the Governor believes that death penalty deterrence is measured by murder rates. It isn’t. It is as ridiculous as the Governor saying no laws deter anybody if there is a high crime rate. The reality is that all laws and sanctions, as all negative consequences, deter some, whether high crime rates or low.

    But, lets follow the Governor’s misguided thinking.

    The United States has had double digit executions, annually, from 1984 – 2011. Murders are, now, at a 43 year low. Murder rates are, now, at a 48 year low.

    Double digit annual executions stopped in the US in 1964 and resumed in 1984. During that period, murders increased by 100%.

    Governor, the death penalty and race realities in Maryland are this:

    “There is no race of the offender / victim effect at either the decision to advance a case to penalty hearing or the decision to sentence a defendant to death given a penalty hearing.”

    No governor, 141 countries have not abolished capital punishment. Countries retaining the death penalty are 101; those without 96.

    The death penalty has the same foundation as do all legal sanctions: JUSTICE.

    Truth is important, as well.

    (1) “Repealing Capital Punishment in Maryland”, Office of Governor Martin O’Malley, January 15th, 2013
    http://www.governor.maryland.gov/blog/?p=7999

    Dudley Sharp
    e-mail sharpjfa@aol.com, 713-622-5491,
    Houston, Texas

    Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

    A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

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