The Maryland Senate finished several days of emotionally charged discussions, which included graphic explanations of especially violent crimes, and agreed to end capital punishment on March 6 by a vote of 27 to 20. The topic now moves to the House where the measure is expected to pass. The state has not held an execution since 2005 although five inmates remain on death row.
The governor of Maryland agrees with abolishing execution. He does not believe the practice works and wants to focus on more effective methods of fighting crime. A spokeswoman for a group that wants the death penalty banned nationally believes that the country is moving toward abolishing execution and thinks that other states will follow Maryland's example. She added that voters no longer decide who to vote for based on their stance on the death penalty.
One senator commented on statistics showing that the state enforces execution based on race - cases with black defendants and white victims have a higher likelihood of death penalty rulings. However, death penalty advocates still emphasized the benefits of the death penalty in deterring especially horrific crimes. A second senator noted the conflict that many feel on the issue and added that his main concern is killing an innocent person.
The death penalty is available in 33 states, but other punishments have been used more often in recent years. In 2012, 77 defendants across the country received a death penalty sentence, which is the second-lowest number in more than 35 years.
One recent poll raises questions on the support of Maryland residents in abolishing the death penalty. The Maryland constitution permits voters to keep approved referendums off the ballot. Some question the fate of a death penalty vote.
The defendants who are currently on death row may have their sentences commuted if this bill passes. A criminal defense attorney might be able to fight for their freedom.
Source: Washington Post, "Death penalty repeal approved by Maryland Senate," John Wagner, March 6, 2013