On January 15th, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley announced that he will once again push for repeal of capital punishment in the state. O’Malley, who has long been opposed to the death penalty, attempted repeal in 2009 but fell short. Now, with renewed momentum and stronger support within the legislature, many think that Maryland may be the next state to abolish capital punishment.
And it seems about time. While the entire nation scrambles to cut spending in the wake of recession, anti-death penalty advocates argue that we simply cannot afford to maintain a system marked by such high costs and seemingly little returns. Governor O’Malley said,
“It is not a deterrent. It cannot be administered without racial bias. It costs three times as much as locking someone up for life without parole. And it cannot be reversed if an innocent person is executed.”
A 2008 study by the Urban Institute estimated that Maryland taxpayers are paying about $186 million for the capital punishment system in the state – a system which has carried out only five executions since 1978 when Maryland reenacted the death penalty. The study estimated that, in comparison to an equivalent non-death penalty case, Marylanders paid an extra $1.9 million more per death sentence – a total of about $3 million per death penalty case. According to the Death Penalty Information Center,
The study examined 162 capital cases that were prosecuted between 1978 and 1999 and found that seeking the death penalty in those cases cost $186 million more than what those cases would have cost had the death penalty not been sought. At every phase of a case, according to the study, capital murder cases cost more than non-capital murder cases.
What’s more, the study looked at 106 cases where the death penalty was sought but not handed down in Maryland and found that those cases cost the state an additional $71 million simply to seek a death sentence, yet the final outcome was ultimately life or a long-term sentence.
If Maryland successfully repeals the death penalty, it will be the sixth state in the past decade to repeal, including Connecticut which voted for repeal last year. 17 states plus the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty. Along with Maryland, Senator Hank Sanders of Alabama plans to introduce a bill to abolish the death penalty this year, as do Kentucky Representative Carl Rollins, Senator Claire Levy of Colorado, New Hampshire Governor Margaret Hassan, and Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon.
O’Malley has been a true champion for progressive causes since he was elected Governor of Maryland in 2006. In 2011, he signed a law to make certain undocumented immigrants eligible for in-state college tuition, also known as the Dream Act, and in 2012 he signed a law to legalize same-sex marriage in the state which was upheld by majority vote during the general elections. This year, O’Malley has stated that he plans to pursue stricter gun safety regulations, including a ban of assault weapons and gun safety courses and background checks for potential gun owners. He also announced plans to increase the use of renewable wind-energy off of the Atlantic coast through use of incentives.
Alyssa Röhricht blogs at Crash Culture: Political Train Wrecks for Political Junkies