Panel Calls for Abolition of Death Penalty

Panel Calls for Abolition of Death Penalty

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System Is Open to Error, Costs Too Much and Fails to Deter Crime, Members Say

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 13, 2008; B08

A high-profile panel appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley recommended last night abolishing Maryland's death penalty, concluding that the state's system of capital punishment is too costly and vulnerable to wrongful convictions and fails as a deterrent to crime to be sustainable.

The 13 to 7 vote capped four months of testimony, statistics and debate as the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment considered an issue that has roiled passions in the state in recent years.

Maryland, which has executed five men since reinstating capital punishment in the 1970s, has had an effective moratorium since 2006, when its high court ruled that procedures for lethal injection had not been properly adopted. Five inmates are on death row.

The commission, which includes prosecutors, lawmakers, clergy, law enforcement officials, a former death row inmate and family members of murder victims, did not weigh moral arguments as it reached its conclusion. The path was more pragmatic: Is capital punishment good public policy?

"I don't have a firm opinion on the morality of the death penalty," said Benjamin R. Civiletti, who served as attorney general under President Jimmy Carter (D) and was tapped by O'Malley (D) last summer to lead the panel. But he said he opposed execution for "pragmatic" reasons, among them that "it's haphazard in how it is applied." (more…)