NAACP CEO Jealous and Maryland Governor O’Malley Call for End to the Death Penalty in Maryland

NAACP CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley have promised to work together to end the death penalty in the state this year, citing a litany of problems with Maryland’s capital punishment system.

Joined by NAACP leaders, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, legislative leaders for repeal, local elected officials, civil rights workers and faith leaders from across Maryland, Governor O’Malley announced he would sponsor repeal legislation and make it a key focus. The NAACP has made repealing the death penalty in Maryland a top priority this year and Mr. Jealous has actively worked for repeal in recent weeks.

“The death penalty has failed Maryland,” Mr. Jealous said. “It does not deter crime and is used almost exclusively on the poor. The death penalty squanders millions of law enforcement dollars that could be better spent on victims’ services and catching killers still at large. We are proud that Governor O’Malley, Lt. Governor Brown and a majority of state legislators have all agreed that this year is the year to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life without the possibility of parole.”

“There is no more important thing that we do in public service than protect our families and the best way to keep our families safe is not with more killing,” said Governor O’Malley. “Every dollar we choose to spend on an ineffective death penalty is a dollar we’re not spending on crime-fighting technologies and tools that actually work. Investing in law enforcement, data-driven policing, performance measurement, strengthening partnerships, investing in the latest crime fighting technologies, DNA analysis – these are the ways we drive down crime.”

“Across Maryland, people have come to understand how ineffective and unfair the death penalty is,” said Gerald Stansbury, president of the Maryland state conference of the NAACP. “This issue is important to our constituency in Maryland and we are determined to make sure the legislature acts this year to put an end to capital punishment.”

The legislation being introduced – Death Penalty Repeal and Appropriation of Saving to Aid Survivors of Homicide Victims – would repeal the death penalty and replace it with a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The bill also reallocates $500,000 annually to aid surviving family members of murder victims. The funding would come from savings in the state general fund realized by ending death penalty prosecutions.

“Governor O’Malley has been a firm supporter of ending the death penalty for many years, and we are pleased that he has made the issue one of his top priorities for this legislative session,” said Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions. “His renewed leadership puts us on track to finally end capital punishment in our state.”

The 2008 Maryland Commission to Capital Punishment, chaired by former U.S Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti, recommended ending the death penalty in the state – finding that it did not deter murder, was more expensive than life imprisonment and that the race of a victim was a major determinant in death sentencing.

The Commission also found that death sentences brought additional hardships on the families of murder victims and that support for such families was lacking. This fueled the Commission’s second recommendation that the savings from repeal be used to increase and improve services for surviving families.

Advocates are confident that repealing the death penalty enjoys majority support in both the state Senate and House of Delegates.

A wide range of groups have come together to join the NAACP and Maryland CASE in the repeal effort, including CASA MD,, the ACLU of Maryland, Progressive Maryland, Equality Maryland, the Ecumenical Leaders Group, Maryland Catholic Conference, the United Church of Christ, Equal Justice USA, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Witness to Innocence and more.

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