Death Penalty Moratorium in MD - your thoughts?

As of 11:30 this morning, Governor Parris Glendening of Maryland has declared a moratorium on executions in that state, pending the release of a study by the University of Maryland this September.

As an opponent of the death penalty, I think it’s a major step in the right direction. It also demonstrates to me what can happen when people on the ground organize around an issue and work to make their voices heard. I’m damn glad it happened.

Olentzero, what are you doing living in Virgininny?!? Sounds like you need to swim across the Potomac and escape the clutches of the evil Republican controled empire.

Ooops, what that my anti-Virginia bias showing up again?

Better than the People’s Republic of Maryland! :slight_smile:

I agree, Olentzero, that is an excellent step in the right direction.

I think it’s a good step, but for the wrong reasons. (disclaimer - I’m against the death penalty). Glendenning claims he wants to see whether or not there’s a racial bias (duh). Even if they eliminate that, though, the track record for convicting innocents is horrible.

Two much double-speak has been going on about ‘one day we may execute an innocent person.’ The fact is, anybody who looks at the percentage of death row inmates who have been exonerated (not just that their guilt was shown to be in reasonable doubt - they were exonerated based on DNA evidence) knows that we’ve killed plenty of innocent people.

The only reason nobody can demonstrate that an innocent has been killed is because once the death penalty is carried out, the state closes the book on it - nobody can get to the evidence to investigate it.

But it’s a statistical certainty.

Those activists in the anti-death penalty movement that think that the death penalty is a human rights violation are of two minds about moratoria on the death penalty.[list=A][li]Some people (most in my limited experience) think “It’s a good start, and some condemned prisoner’s lives will be extended and perhaps eventually saved.” While the moratorium is in place we can continue to work for abolition of the death penalty.[/li][li]Other people are not opposed to a moratorium, but are reluctant to call for a moratorium, because many calls for a moratorium are phrased in such a way as to imply that the death penalty as currently implemented is unfair; implying there are ways to “fix” the process. Those people argue that one should oppose the death penalty per se and not a particular method of conviction or execution.[/list=A][/li]I personally fall in category A.

I heard a report Monday on National Public Radio that a court case in Virginia may determine if a man already executed could be exonerated through DNA evidence.
Link to audio report

I do think it’s a step in the right direction.

Well, well my old U of MD Govt 400 professor has finally done my bidding. Now I can pursue my plans with no fear of the needle. Bwahahahahhah!! Well done Parris!

Arnold - I’m in category A myself. I’ve never met anyone whose position coincides with category B, but it strikes me as needless hairsplitting. Some calls for a moratorium may be based on a hope that the death penalty can be “fixed”, but that doesn’t negate the need for a moratorium by a long shot. As a matter of fact, I think such a position ought to be argued with while people on both sides of the “fix it/it can’t be fixed” fence work towards a moratorium together. Just because someone who agrees with you on one point doesn’t agree with you on another is no reason to change your stance on the point of agreement.

Olentzero - read the language on moratorium petitions. The ones I’ve seen say something like “Given that the death penalty can convict innocents because of defects in the judicial system, and given that it’s disproportionately applied to the poor / racial minorities, etc. We ask for a moratorium on the death penalty in the state of X…” The petition seems to imply that if the death penalty was fairly applied amongst economic / racial barriers, and if we had safeguards that would prevent the execution of innocents, then the moratorium should be lifted.
Several of the abolitionists I have met have said that they could not in good conscience sign such a petition. They want to see text that says “Given that the death penalty is a violation of a person’s most basic human right, the right to life, it should be abolished in the USA as it is in the European Union and most other countries in the world” etc.

Which letter would you write to your congressman:
a) I oppose violent beatings of prisoners in holding cells by the guards at Prison X because they are beating mostly poor prisoners and latino prisoners;
b) I oppose violent beatings of prisoners by the guards at Prison X because prison guards should never beat the prisoners.

I can only agree - a step in the right direction.

Well, if the petition went on to say “…until such time as fail-safe judicial measures can be implemented” then I’d have a hard time signing that petition too. But citing reasons for one’s opposition to the death penalty doesn’t impose a condition on that opposition. IMO, the reason people cite the racial and social bias apparent in the death penalty is because the argument on a criminal’s human rights is often answered by supporters with “vicious criminals deserve to die; it’s justice.” It’s now up to opponents of the death penalty to demonstrate how the DP machine isn’t functioning in a just manner, and instead of the crime being the determinant, it’s the accused’s race and social class. And not only that it’s functioning in such a manner now, but that this bias is an inherent feature in the death penalty machine overall.

Additionally, I don’t think the positions are mutually exclusive. I can be opposed to the death penalty both from a political and a moral standpoint, and therefore call for a moratorium and from there abolition. (As a matter of fact, one of the main slogans in the Campaign to End the Death Penalty is “Moratorium Now - Abolition Next”.) Abolition becomes that much easier to achieve when moratoria start falling into place. Refusing to support a moratorium only makes achieving abolition harder, and thus reluctance to call for a moratorium simply because of a perceived sentiment in the language of a petition makes no sense.

Of course, you could always ask the petitioner if they would support the death penalty given a fail-safe judicial framework, but dollars to doughnuts you’re not going to find very many of them.

There’s nothing that says different groups can’t submit differently worded pro-moratorium petitions, based on their beliefs about the DP.

FWIW, the situation in Maryland all but shouts, “we value white people’s lives more than black people’s.” According to this morning’s Washington Post, 80% of the murder victims in Maryland are nonwhite, but 12 of the 13 people on Death Row in Maryland are there for killing whites. (The odds against things being that skewed by chance are about 23 million to 1.)

Given the views of Americans about the DP, I don’t see it going away. I think the best that can be hoped for is a cleaned-up system. I think the main demand ought to be for real money for DP defense. If each time a prosecutor went for the DP, the state had to contribute $50K into the fund that pays for indigent DP defendants’ representation, then DP defendants would have better trial representation that would drastically reduce the likelihood of an innocent on death row, and prosecutors would have to choose DP cases more carefully.

RTFirefly: Three years ago, when Glendening appeared on Kojo Nnamdi’s radio show, a bunch of ISO members called in to keep asking him questions about the death penalty (which of course irritated him no end). One of the last comrades to get through asked about a moratorium. Glendening replied “I will never declare a moratorium on executions while I’m governor”.

Abolition happened once; it can happen again.

it will be chaos. criminals will kill all the people they want to because they know don’t have to fear the chair.

I’m sorry, I must have misunderstood Glendening, then. I thought he was putting a moratorium on the death penalty, but obviously he was abolishing the entire Maryland penal system. Silly me. :rolleyes:

In a slightly less amusing way than Olentzero (;)), gex gex would you care to support the idea that the death penalty is in any way a deterrent to murder? IIRC, most rational supporters of the death penalty acknowledge that statistics don’t bear out that supposition. Even not-so-rational supporters such as David Anderson admit that statistical and scientific evidence indicates that the death penalty does not support the idea that it is a deterrent (of course, he goes on to say that therefore we should “turn to sane judgement, common sense and experience to get answers” – thereby making the leap that those three sources give the same answer for a criminal at the moment that the crime is about to be committed). More resources on the deterrent factor can be found at this anti-death penalty site. For instance, this snippet is relevenat:

Ever look at a list of the other nations that still have the death penalty? Not the best human rights record in that company.

oooh. there should have been a :rolleyes: after that post, then.

i guess my irony was too subtle.

Pronounce us soundly whooshed, then. Ya never can tell, though.

See? Only good things coincide with my arrival.

I personally am against the death penalty, and am glad to see it gone, if only temporarily.