Reporting Derek Valcourt
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — The end of the death penalty in Maryland. That’s what some lawmakers are hoping to accomplish as the General Assembly prepares to return to work in Annapolis in a matter of hours.
Derek Valcourt explains how they hope to accomplish that.
Bills to abolish the death penalty have failed in years past, but supporters say they are one vote shy of getting out of a Senate committee to the full floor, where they say they have enough votes in both chambers to pass it.
By the time the state of Georgia executed death row inmate Troy Davis in September for the 1989 killing of an off-duty police officer, seven of the original nine witnesses in the case recanted their testimony. NAACP President Benjamin Jealous says the international outrage that followed Davis’ execution has gone a long way in changing attitudes.
“People in this country care about fairness. They are outraged about what happened to Troy Davis. They want to see our country join the rest of the western world and abolish the death penalty. In order to get there, Maryland has to do it,” Jealous said.
Also speaking out against the death penalty is Kirk Bloodsworth, a former Maryland death row inmate released after he was exonerated by DNA.
“Do away with the death penalty because the simple truth is, if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone in this state,” Bloodsworth said.
Advocates argue the death penalty is cruel to crime victims because appeals drag on for too long and executions rarely happen.
“So what we have in Maryland at this point is the death penalty, not actually as a punishment tool but a political tool,” said Glenn Ivey, former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney.
“We have been watering down and killing the death penalty in this state for 20 years,” said Delegate Pat McDonough.
Republican Pat McDonough is a vocal supporter of capital punishment, which is already suspended in Maryland until a legislative committee approves new lethal injection protocols. He says in many cases, life without parole isn’t good enough.
“We are taking care of the murderers but we are not showing sympathy for the victims,” he said.
In the past, Governor Martin O’Malley has publicly supported repealing the death penalty. A spokesperson in his office said if a bill comes to his desk, he will consider signing it.
New Jersey, New Mexico and Illinois have all abolished the death penalty in recent years. NAACP says they are also pushing efforts to ban the death penalty in Connecticut and California this year.