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February 17, 2009

Death penalty repeal: Will any senators change their minds?

Julie Bykowicz, Laura Smitherman and Gadi Dechter have polled the Senate and found a slim majority opposed to Gov. O'Malley's plan to abolish the death penalty. As it stands, O'Malley would need to get all four undecided votes and flip one of the people currently in the anti-repeal camp. Here's the list, as it stands:

Question: Would you be inclined to vote in favor of a full repeal of the death penalty?

YES (19)

Joan Carter Conway, Baltimore City (D)
Ulysses Currie, Prince George's (D)
James "Ed" DeGrange Sr., Anne Arundel (D)
Nathaniel Exum, Prince George's (D)
Jennie M. Forehand, Montgomery County (D)
Brian E. Frosh, Montgomery (D)
Lisa A. Gladden, Baltimore City (D)
David C. Harrington, Prince George's (D)
Verna L. Jones, Baltimore City (D)
Delores G. Kelley, Baltimore County (D)
Nancy J. King, Montgomery (D)
Mike Lenett, Montgomery (D)
Richard Madaleno, Montgomery (D)
Nathaniel J. McFadden, Baltimore City (D)
C. Anthony Muse, Prince George's (D)
Douglas J.J. Peters, Prince George's (D)
Paul G. Pinsky, Prince George's (D)
Catherine E. Pugh, Baltimore City (D)
Jamie Raskin, Montgomery (D)

NO (24)

David R. Brinkley, Frederick and Carroll (R)
James Brochin, Baltimore County (D)
Richard F. Colburn, Eastern Shore (R)
George W. Della Jr., Baltimore City (D)
Roy P. Dyson, Southern Maryland (D)
George C. Edwards, Western Maryland (R)
Rob Garagiola, Montgomery (D)
Barry Glassman, Harford (R)
Janet Greenip, Anne Arundel (R)
Larry E. Haines, Carroll and Baltimore counties (R)
Andy Harris, Baltimore and Harford counties (R)
Nancy Jacobs, Harford and Cecil (R)
Edward J. Kasemeyer, Howard and Baltimore counties (D)
Allan H. Kittleman, Howard and Carroll (R)
Katherine A. Klausmeier, Baltimore County (D)
Thomas "Mac" Middleton, Charles (D)
Thomas V. Mike Miller, Calvert and Prince George's (D)
Alex X. Mooney, Frederick and Washington (R)
Donald F. Munson, Washington (R)
E.J. Pipkin, Eastern Shore (R)
James N. Robey, Howard (D)
J. Lowell Stoltzfus, Eastern Shore (R)
Norman R. Stone Jr., Baltimore County (D)
Bobby A. Zirkin, Baltimore County (D)


John C. Astle, Anne Arundel (D)
Rona E. Kramer, Montgomery (D)
Jim Rosapepe, Prince George's and Anne Arundel (D)
Bryan W. Simonaire, Anne Arundel (R)

Simonaire is a big question mark, since he could be the vote that decides whether the bill gets out of the Judicial Proceedings Committee. Still, he said in the paper this morning that his baseline is that he's pro-death penalty but is worried about whether innocent people could be executed. That sounds like someone who's leaning against the repeal but is trying to keep an open mind, not the other way around.

Are there any surprises in the "no" camp? No major ones, anyway. Rob Garagiola is the only MoCo Democrat publicly on the anti-repeal side, but he's probably also among the most conservative members of that delegation. George Della is someone I could see going either way on the issue, but most of the other Dems on the "no" list seem like solid votes. All the Baltimore County senators, for example, seem unlikely to change their minds. After all, they come from a county that happily elected and re-elected Sandy O'Connor as state's attorney, and she put more people on death row than anybody in modern Maryland legal history.

Shoot, if Jim Rosapepe isn't in the repeal camp, O'Malley's facing an uphill climb.

Posted by Andy Green at 12:01 PM | | Comments (1)


The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

Often, the death penalty dialogue gravitates to the subject of innocents at risk of execution. Seldom is a more common problem reviewed. That is, how innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.

Enhanced Due Process

No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.

Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.

That is. logically, conclusive.

Enhanced Incapacitation

To state the blatantly clear, living murderers, in prison, after release or escape, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.

Although an obvious truism, it is surprising how often folks overlook the enhanced incapacitation benefits of the death penalty over incarceration.

Enhanced Deterrence

16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, find for death penalty deterrence.

A surprise? No.

Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.

Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don't. Studies which don't find for deterrence don't say no one is deterred, but that they couldn't measure those deterred.

What prospect of a negative outcome doesn't deter some? There isn't one . . . although committed anti death penalty folk may say the most severe criminal sanction, the death penalty, is the only one.

However, the premier anti death penalty scholar accepts it as a given that the death penalty is a deterrent, but does not believe it to be a greater deterrent than a life sentence. Yet, the evidence is compelling and un refuted that death is feared more than life.

Enhanced Fear

Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it's a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out.

Reality paints a very different picture.

What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.

What percentage of convicted capital murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.

What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.

This is not, even remotely, in dispute.

What of those potential murderers who choose not to murder - would a more reasoned group fear death more than life and more likely be deterred?

For the overwhelming majority of us, isn't life preferred over death and death feared more than life?

In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, have some chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives?

Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher, are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking.

The innocents deception of death penalty opponents has been getting exposure for many years. Even the behemoth of anti death penalty newspapers, The New York Times, has recognized that deception.

To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . (1) This when death penalty opponents were claiming the release of 119 "innocents" from death row. Death penalty opponents never required actual innocence in order for cases to be added to their "exonerated" or "innocents" list. They simply invented their own definitions for exonerated and innocent and deceptively shoe horned large numbers of inmates into those definitions - something easily discovered with fact checking.

There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.

If we accept that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, we can, reasonably, conclude that the DNA cases will be excluded prior to trial, and that for the next 8000 death sentences, that we will experience a 99.8% accuracy rate in actual guilt convictions. This improved accuracy rate does not include the many additional safeguards that have been added to the system, over and above DNA testing.

Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?


Full report -All Innocence Issues: The Death Penalty, upon request.

Full report - The Death Penalty as a Deterrent, upon request

(1) The Death of Innocents: A Reasonable Doubt,
New York Times Book Review, p 29, 1/23/05, Adam Liptak,
national legal correspondent for The NY Times

copyright 2007-2009, Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part, is approved with proper attribution.

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail 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.

Pro death penalty sites (Sweden)

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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