ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — The end of the death penalty in Maryland. That’s what some lawmakers and advocates are hoping to accomplish by the end of this legislative session.
Derek Valcourt explains they’ve got some hurdles to clear first.
They made their case to a House committee Tuesday but it’s a Senate committee that could give them the most resistance. 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.
Erricka Bridgeford says justice for the 2007 murder of her brother won’t come by lethal injection.
“It’s not justice to me to have another dead body in place of my brother’s dead body,” Bridgeford said.
She’s one of several advocates calling on lawmakers to repeal Maryland’s death penalty. She’s joined by the NAACP, which points to the outrage over the September execution of Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis as proof that attitudes toward the death penalty are changing.
“It’s a known fact that racism exists. We know that our system is not foolproof, so in that sense of the word, we need to move forward at this time not to have another Troy Davis,” said Gerald Stansbury, NAACP.
“It can happen like that,” said Kirk Bloodsworth.
Bloodsworth knows about wrongful convictions; he was released from Maryland’s death row after he was exonerated by DNA.
“I don’t want to see anybody executed,” Bloodsworth said.
“My daughter was murdered in 1998,” said Vicki Schieber.
Schieber argues the lengthy appeals in the death penalty process can be cruel to crime victims.
“It puts them through hell. There’s no better word. They can go on for years and years and years,” Schieber said.
“Just because it takes a long time doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do,” said Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger.
Shellenberger is among those trying to keep the death penalty which, for now, is suspended in Maryland until a legislative committee approves new lethal injection protocols.
“Prosecutors need that one final ultimate option of seeking death in the most heinous of cases,” said Shellenberger.
In the past, Governor Martin O’Malley has publicly supported repealing the death penalty. A spokesperson in his office said if the 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.