15 March 2013

Maryland abolishes the death penalty - but...

Today, with a 82-56 vote in the House of Delegates, Maryland became the 18th state to abolish the death penalty - and the first state below the Mason-Dixon line to do so. The state senate had approved the measure last week. Governor Martin O'Malley, who sponsored the bill, is expected to sign it into law shortly.

NAACP President Ben Jealous (@benjealous) - formerly my Amnesty International colleague - tweeted: "We are keeping our promise to Troy Davis state by state."

Natasha Minster (@nminsker), Campaign Manager for Safe California, tweeted: "US standards of decency evolved"

Kevin (@GreenOctopus) tweeted: "One more victory against barbarism."

And Governor O'Malley shared the following words:"With today's vote to repeal the death penalty in Maryland, the General Assembly is eliminating a policy that is proven not to work. Evidence shows that the death penalty is not a deterrent, it cannot be administered without racial bias, and it costs three times as much as life in prison without parole. What's more, there is no way to reverse a mistake if an innocent person is put to death."

While I will certainly be raising a glass of wine in celebration, there is one possibility that could undo today's progress: According to the Baltimore Sun, "[d]eath penalty supporters could still petition the repeal bill to a referendum in the 2014 election, giving Maryland voters the final say. Polls show the death penalty still has the support of a narrow majority of voters."

Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope that doesn't happen.

And let's move forward towards ending the death penalty in every other state that still thinks it makes sense to kill a killer in order to show that killing is wrong.

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