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March 3, 2009

Death penalty: What would you tell your senator?

Now that the procedural questions are out of the way, the Senate is set to engage in a full-fledged debate over whether to repeal Maryland's death penalty, to amend it or to leave it the same. The issue is complicated, and people on both sides are arguing their positions for a wide variety of reasons: The rights of victims, the worry that the state could execute the innocent, the cost of capital punishment, the need for an ultimate penalty for the most heinous crimes, etc. What do you think your state senator should consider when he or she votes later today?

Posted by Andy Green at 1:10 PM | | Comments (46)


My advice to them is rather simple: "Always remember who you represent. Then, vote accordingly."

I would want them to answer these questions when considering the issue:

1) Are there crimes so heinous that the death penalty is an appropriate form of punishment? - I believe yes.

2) Will the elimination of the death penalty endanger prison guards? I believe yes.

3) Are there enough regulations in place to ensure an innocent man is not put to death? I believe No.

If the answer to any of these questions is no, I do not believe a senator should support the death penalty in its current form.

I support the death penalty on principle. I have no sympathy for murderers. Problem is the death penalty doesn't solve anything: The death penalty makes martyrs out of murderers. It takes attention away from the victim and creates sympathy for the criminal. It creates an unholy bloodlust among otherwise decent people. And when the execution is over, after all the drama, all the protests, all the money spent on appeal after appeal, after we have turned ourselves into bloodthirsty monsters -- nothing has changed.
So maybe keep it on principle, but don't use it because its a waste of time.

""Always remember who you represent."

Are you kidding? Since when do they care about us cash machines? All we are to the GA is an ATM to plunder at their will.

The DP is useless unless it is used.

If Pat Jessamy could not see fit to apply it to the 2 illegal aliens who sliced the throats of their own blood, 3 children, then it is a useless law.
OR we have a USELESS women in her job.

Thankfully we have a Governor who is willing to put political benefits aside and do what's right. Here's hoping the Senate stands by the same principles.

It has become clear that more than one innocent person has been executed in the United States in recent years. As long as there is a chance of an innocent person being executed, I do not want the death penalty used in my state. As it happens, I also believe the death penalty is wrong for other, lesser reasons. But the possibility of gross miscarriage of justice is enough for me to say let's repeal the death penalty. I hope the state Senate sees that we need to do what is right here.

I have NEVER heard of a case of a man who's NEVER been in trouble with the law being railroaded to the chair.

Now ya got a lil tar on ya from some not so wise choices. Well you only have yourself to blame.

He who has never been arrested before would not be found guilty, without being so.

How about spend their time and energy on more pressing issues, such as the economy, crime, education, and the chesapeake bay.

I thought you wern't suppose to mix religion and goernment but I saw the Gov. protesting with a church group.So I see the big baby got his way in the senate.........gee what a shock.Once again it's not what the people in Md. want, it's all about Larry,Moe,and Curly want !!!!

I will support Maryland eliminating the death penalty when the criminals eliminate it.

This has been a no-brainer decision for decades. But, just as with the slots issue, Maryland is a decade (or more) behind in catching up to its sister and brother States.

The death penalty is a failed system, and there is a reason why we are one of the only civilized nations (if not the only) who still have the death penalty. It's not applied equally. Innocent people are murdered by our government. And it is more expensive than the alternative. Yes, more expensive. Most people ignore the data. But, it's true. The death penalty, and the judicial process surrounding it, creates a financial burden that most people cannot understand or comprehend.

Again, I'm not surprised that the Maryland legislature is dragging its feet on this issue. It's the same ineptitude that surrounded the slots debate.

"Thankfully we have a Governor who is willing to put political benefits aside"


That's the funniest thing I have read in months.
That man does absolutely NOTHING if it has no political benefit for him.

Useless women in her job? Try a useless State Senate and Governor, period. They love to rob people blind and apparently the sponges that are the Maryland citizens who support them, like it.

As for the death penalty, if it is proved without a reasonable doubt someone committed a heinous crime, sorry, but eye-for-an-eye. If someone raped and murdered a death penalty opponent's daughter, I bet their tune would change quite a bit.

If not, as far as I'm concerned, if they want to 'rehabilitate' them or let them eat live out their lives wasting space and taxpayer money sitting in a jail cell (and possibly escaping or getting released on bail eventually only to commit a similar crime), well those folks can house the murderer in their own homes and let them live there and pay for any 'rehabilitation'.

I don't want my tax dollars doing it. If anything, I think the death penalty is too humane. I think all murderers should be executed the same way they killed their victim.

Keep the death penalty, but if you must abolish it, stop all government funded abortions.
All I ask for is a stop to the hypocrisy.

It costs the tax payer less money to have someone executed than it does to give them a life sentance.
If you pre-meditate murder than you deserve to die.
You live by the sword you die by the sword.

"I will support Maryland eliminating the death penalty when the criminals eliminate it."

That's the smartest thing I've ever read about this argument. Well said Elkridge.

And to the person who claims we need to 'catch up' with our sister and brother states when it comes to morality... 36 states in the Union practice the death penalty. Since 1976, Maryland has applied the penalty 5 times. That pales in comparison to Texas (431), Virginia (103) , Oklahoma (89) and a dozen other states that have applied it at least 20 times over that same span.

In Baltimore City alone, over 250 homicides take place every year. And that's a low end number compared some years where it's over 300. Where do you propose we put all of these criminals? Can we build a prison for them in your community?

I guess that person is right when they say Maryland needs to catch up. Catch up with Texas and Virginia, that's for sure.

DeWayne Dunmore, murdered in PG County in Jan 2008, would still be alive if his killer, Benjamin Lester Perry, had been executed for murdering Darryl Martin Spencer in Dec 1987.

But Perry was not executed, he was coddled, released long before his original sentence was up, and allowed to kill again by a "justice" system that values killers over victims.

How many more innocents will die at the hands of repeat killers if O'Malley has his way?

The Maryland's death penalty is the only real deterent that is available to judges who make these type of desions for those who camit the worse of crimes and no remorse when doing so. Secondly, why should Maryland tax payers have to house and feed them criminals for the rest of their lives, when some tax payers are trying tp pay thrie own bills.

The problem with the death penalty is that it is not used enough. It can only be effective to stop crime if you carry out executions in a reasonable time manner. Maryland should conduct at least 6 executions a year, instead of 1 every 10 years. How bout' the old days...say over 100 years ago out west...when after church on Sunday you would walk your family to the town square and witness a man hang for stealing a horse. That is the greatest impression to not commit crime you can make on a young individual ever. It's hard, but it happened and it worked. So, if you keep the death penealty, then use it! If not, get rid of it.

"Try a useless State Senate and Governor, period"

Sorry Matt, that is a given.

Judge Roy Bean would be laughing at this debate.

I am a 49 year old lady who believes in the death penalty. If you kill someone in cold blood I feel your life need to be taken. Do not house these criminals and have the state and tax payers to take care of them.Their life do not need to be spare.

"It has become clear that more than one innocent person has been executed in the United States in recent years."

Katherine, since you seem to be so sure about this, can you please show us the proof to back up your claim? Or are you just another liberal that thinks that it is okay to kill an unborn, innocent child because they're an "inconvenience", but that it's not right to execute some murdering child rapist that has been tried before a jury of their peers because Mommy was a crack whore and Daddy was an alcoholic? about it Katherine? Got any proof to back up your statement???

I think we need to make changes to the law not do away with it altogether. Also life in prison should mean life not a few years.

The risk of executing an innocent is too great and easily outweighs any other arguement. The only counter arguement the pro-death side has is that the system is too good for the possiblity to ever occur (despite obvious evidence that the system is no where near that good) - notice how they never answer the question "is the chance that even a single innocent is wrongfully executed worth ridding the world of the lowest scum?" Anyone who wouldn't agree that letting a million and more monsters spend the rest of their lives rotting in prison to spare a single innocent life should get their morals checked.

Lock 'em up and throw away the key.

Our corrections officers have the HARDEST job of anyone, anywhere. They deal with the worst, most degenerate thugs in society EVERY DAY. This is only getting worse as gangs that exist on a nationwide basis control so much crime/murder inside and outside of prison.
If a convict kills a corrections officer who is doing his/her duty keeping the rest of us safe, what are we to do? Give this person another LWOP sentence?
We MUST support our corrections officers. They risk their lives for US!

I believe that we should take this issue out of the hands of the politicians and put it into the hands of the voters. Lord knows the politicians are going to milk this debate for all its worth, get no further than it is now, and cost the tax payers millions of dollars on a bunch of verbal diarhea. Put it in the hands of the voters, just like they did slots. At least we'll get a definitive yes or no whether or not capital punishment should be enforced. Personally, I am all for the death penalty and any individual who is positively quilty of taking a life should have to pay for it with his own no matter what his IQ.

I just want to know what the punishment will be, that is constiutionally acceptable, for those that commit a murder while already sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Or for those that murder in an effort to sway the actions of a court.

The argument for years has been we don;t want to put to death an inocent person. I totally agree with that way of thinking. Doesn't the use of DNA reduce that possibility? We also need to reduce the time between being found guilty and when the person is actually put to death. There should be a time limit and limited number of appeals. As for there are more of one race than another, what does that have to do with anything? A crime is a crime, race or gender doesn't enter the discussion. Finally, you need to show us tax payers why it cost so much to carry out an execution. How much do we have to pay for someone to live very comfortable with three meals a day with wide screen TV's for life? Keep the death penality, but reduce the overall time.

The criminals should be executed the way they killed a civilian. I support the death penality.

We should not eliminate the death penalty, but utilize it in cases where the evidence is irrefutable. There are sociopaths in our society who don't deserve a place in society, in any capacity. Why do we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep them in a jail cell where they can put other inmates and more importantly, our correctional officers at risk?
The death penalty needs to stay, and to be used for certain cases.

I support it -

The death penalty serves no purpose that life in prison without parole can not serve -- protect the public.

We can set a lifer free if proven innocent. There's no reversal for execution.

Leave judgement to God.

Congrats Andy on the response. Keep it up.

anyone who takes another life deserves to forfeit their own.

kill the killers.

anyone who takes another life deserves to forfeit their own.

kill the killers.

Let the punishment fit the crime

I'd prefer that our politicians not mess with the current law, they've made a mess of way too much already.

I'm in favor of the death penalty. Md gives too many rights to the criminals instead of to the law abiding citizens. But of course our politicians favor the criminals, are't they all crooked and thieves? Look at Washington, how many cabinet appointees have committed crimes(tax evasion) and these are onlt the ones we re told about The dath penalty thing is a smoke sreen for O'Malley, Let's spend some time checking his past out. Where was he as Mayor when Dixon was suposedly doing her cherades? Wasn't he in charge and supposed to be overseeing all of his underlings She had a good teacher, thats all I can say!

Speculation on the death penalty.

There is a fair amount of evidence that the process of death in itself may not be a penalty at all.
It could just as easily be a liberation from pain and suffering, as increasing numbers of people who
have chosen euthanasia for terminal illnesses understand. Suicide might be morally wrong if there
is no reason for it, but to suggest that Creation designed life to be an endless torture is to suggest
there is something fundamentally wrong with Creation, no matter how Creation is perceived.

The problem with a 'penalty' is that the person who has committed an act justifying a 'death penalty'
by justice seeking people might not be capable of understanding any relation with
Homosapiens. That is, the individual who has committed a predatory crime against humanity no
longer meets the minimum standards of the Homosapien species; it is just another predatory animal
carrying out a primitive imperative and might not even have the ability to feel pain for itself or others.
There are many recent studies concerning sociopaths, including very modern MRI brain scans, that
indicate a lack of empathy for humans. Under such a definition, the idea of a 'death penalty' has no
meaning while euthanasia of an animal does. If society determines that severe crimes against
humanity were committed by a verifiably tested sociopath that is 'terminally ill', why is there an objection
to euthanasia (execution by lethal injection) if the concept of punishment is meaningless?

When a 'death penalty' of humans can be carried out by some humanity-less entity on any street of
planet Earth, a much more precise societal definition of euthanasia is very much needed. A 'repeat
offender' of violence against humans continues the preditory behavior regardless of confinement. How
has it been determined that a person without consciousness is better off living among the humans he
hates rather than being given a 'gift' of euthanasia?

If we execute murderers and it has no deterent affect, then we have executed murderers. If we don't execute murderers and as a result, fail to deter additional murders, then we have allowed innocent victims to die. I'd rather we error with the former, and not the latter.

Evolve. The death penalty is barbaric, and all other civilized societies have abolished it accordingly.

Martin O'Malley is a joke plain and simple. I agree with the other posters in supporting the death penalty for multiple reasons. DNA evidence seriously decreases the possibility of an innocent person being put to death. Furthermore, if someone is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, they are a constant danger to everyone else in that prison including guards due to the lack of any worse punishment available. Killers that murder in cold blood should not be afforded the possibility of a long life that still in prison may have positive moments nomatter how few and far between they may be. I also seriously doubt that those clamoring for the end of the death penalty would still be for it if a close family member of theirs were to be senselessly murdered. This is an important opportunity to be pro-victim and not pro-convicted criminal.

Where was Sen Andy Harris during these votes? The 23-23 tie was because he was no where to be found. If Andy thinks he wants to run for Congress, he better learn that he needs to make the hard, grown-up decisions, step to the plate, and cast a vote. As someone who could vote for him, he just lost my vote.
He has demonstrated that is not serving the people who elected him.

My guess: O'Mally wants more of George Soros' $, so he asked a favor of the MD Senate president: to shove through his agenda, regardless of Senate rules.

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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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