Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Maryland Passes Death Penalty Repeal Bill

by ALYSSA ROHRICHT

After a series of votes through the Maryland House and Senate, SB 276 was passed through the Maryland House of Delegates on March 15, 2013, to repeal the state’s death penalty and replace it with life without parole. It is widely accepted that Governor Martin O’Malley will also add his signature to officially sign it into law, making Maryland the 18th state to abolish capital punishment in the United States.

Maryland’s move to abolition is one more step toward our country’s move toward modernity. Once SB 276 officially passes in Maryland, it will be the sixth state in six years to repeal the death penalty, along with Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, and New Jersey. The trend of abolition throughout the country is promising, although the state of our nation’s criminal justice system and our death penalty system in general are troubling, at best. The U.S. has only five percent of the world’s population, yet has over 25% of the world’s prison population, making it the largest jailer in the world.  724 people per 100,000 are imprisoned in the U.S. By comparison, Russia, with the second largest prison population in the world, has a rate of 581 people imprisoned per 100,000. To put it in even more frightening terms, according to the BBC, half of the prison population of the world (about nine million) are held in the U.S., China, and Russia, clearly not the best of bedfellows.

Our system of capital punishment is just as frightening. To start, it is rife with racism and classism. The ACLU reports that since the death penalty was revived in the 1970s, “about half of those on death row at any given time have been black.” What’s more, the victim’s race plays a role in whether a capital sentence is sought. “Although approximately 49% of all homicide victims are white, 77% of capital homicide cases since 1976 have involved a white victim.” A study done in Maryland on its death penalty system found that a black offender who killed a white victim faced a greater risk of receiving a death sentence than if the victim was black. The study reports, “For example, in December of 2002 all thirteen men on Maryland’s death row were sentenced to death for killing whites and in eight of these thirteen (62%) the offender was black.”

Equally disturbing, capital cases are also largely dependent on the socio-economic status of the defendant. The ACLU states that about 90% of those on death row could not afford to hire a lawyer when they were tried. In Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia Inquirer study that examined the past three decades of death penalty appeals in PA found that 125 out of 391 capital cases, nearly one-third, have been reversed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 due, for the most part, to mistakes made by defense lawyers that deprived the defendant of a fair trial. The study found that some appellate lawyers missed filing deadlines and sometimes failed to even appear in court for hearings. The problem often stems from the fact that PA defense lawyers are paid a paltry fee and given little time or resources to make their case. As a result, few lawyers are willing to take these capital cases.  So while the government grants people a constitutional right to an attorney, this right is effectively moot if no qualified attorneys are willing to take these cases; cases where a defendant’s life and death are in the balance.

And it is arbitrary, too. It is shocking to most to hear that whether or not the death penalty is sought or imposed depends more on the region where the crime was committed than it does on the actual crime itself. According to Amnesty International, since the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976, 82% of all executions have taken place in the South while the Northeast accounts for less than 1% of all executions, even though his does not reflect data on crime. Furthermore, one would expect that while executions may vary from state-to-state, within each state the data should be relatively consistent. However, data has shown that this is not the case in most states. A study by Frank R. Baumgartner at the University of North Carolina in 2010 found that often times states have death sentences heavily concentrated in one region, depending on the political leanings of prosecutors, among other things. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, in Ohio, for example, 1/4th of all death row inmates are from Hamilton County, even though the county accounts for only 9% of the state’s murders. And in New York as well, capital cases are overwhelmingly concentrated in the upstate counties, approximately 61%, even though the counties account for only 19% of homicides in the state.

All moral arguments aside, the death penalty is simply draining our funds and resources. The costs of incarceration for a death row prisoner are significantly higher than comparable cases resulting in life without parole. A study in Maryland found that costs for capital trials were approximately 42% more than costs for non-death sentence cases. In that state alone, it was revealed that each of the state’s five executions since the death penalty was reenacted cost taxpayers $37.2 million. In Florida, which has one of the highest death row populations, estimates say that each execution costs about $3.2 million, or about six times a life-imprisonment sentence.

And taken from a global perspective, the death penalty is simply not a system that the United States should desire to align itself with. An Amnesty International report documented capital punishment and executions worldwide and found that more than two-thirds of the countries of the world have either formally abolished the death penalty or have not executed anyone in the past decade. Of the countries that still have and use the death penalty, the U.S. ranks fifth in the world for number of executions after China, Iran, North Korea, and Yemen.

As we applaud Maryland for finally repealing the draconian system of capital punishment in the state, we should push the remaining 32 states to do likewise, Delaware is the next likely state to push for abolition with SB 19. Senator Hank Sanders of Alabama is also preparing to introduce a bill this year, as well as Kentucky Representative Carl Rollins, Senator Claire Levy of Colorado, New Hampshire Governor Margaret Hassan, and Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon. Capital punishment is not only detestable on a moral level; it is proven to be largely ineffective as a deterrent and is clearly racially and socio-economically imbalanced. It is time we join the rest of the modern world and abolish this archaic and grievous system of injustice.

Alyssa Rohricht maintains Crash Culture and can be reached at aprohricht@msn.com.

Alyssa Röhricht maintains The Black Cat Revolution and can be reached at aprohricht@msn.com.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyon
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]