A No-Brainer for O'Malley - Re-establish the Moratorium on the Death Penalty

We should hope that after January, we won't be reading stories like this about our fellow Marylanders.

Kirk Bloodsworth spent nine years in prison, including two years on death row, after he was wrongly convicted of the 1984 killing of a 9-year-old girl. He was scheduled to speak Tuesday at Goucher College in Towson at an event sponsored by Maryland Citizens Against State Executions.

"I just want to tell people what it was like for me and how easy it can happen," Bloodsworth said Monday in a telephone interview. "If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody."

I can't really think of an easier decision for Governor elect O'Malley than to re-establish the moratorium on the death penalty in Maryland. Glendening set the precedent, effectively stopping the death penalty from being carried out in Maryland. This move however, was not one aimed at attacking the morality of the death penalty itself (an argument that I personally think holds some water), but instead that was based on a University of Maryland study of the way the death penalty was applied in Maryland. For a slightly dated, but in depth look at the study, go here.

But will O'Malley do it? Things look good, in my opinion. O'Malley has come out against the death penalty personally:

O'Malley, who is Catholic, has said he personally opposes capital punishment, but spokesmen for his campaign have said he will enforce the laws of the state, including the application of the death penalty. Calls Monday to O'Malley's staff for further comment were not immediately returned.

When O'Malley signed on in 2000 to a newspaper advertisement taken out by former Mayor Kurt Schmoke and the late lawmaker Howard Rawlings asking for a moratorium, he talked about the issue.

"I am not in favor of the death penalty. I don't think as people in a civilized society we can support capital punishment. You don't promote respect for life by making us participate in the death penalty," he said at the time.

Of course, Governor elect O'Malley's personal views on the issue should not really be involved here. Unless a new study comes out refuting the findings at Maryland, as a Democrat I feel like O'Malley's hands are tied. He must re-establish the moratorium on the death penalty if he is truly interested in reversing the damage done to our state by the Ehrlich/Steele administration.

If somehow, O'Malley still needs a kick in the pants, the assembly is ready to deliver it:

Maryland lawmakers have regularly submitted measures to repeal the death penalty law. Democratic Delegate Maggie McIntosh of Baltimore, who has supported a repeal, said she expected it would be introduced again. "I'm sure I'll be a co-sponsor," she said.

Lets hope someone delivers on this issue. Re-establishing the moratorium would be a positive, if not symbolic, way of reforming the ailing criminal justice system in Maryland.


Dudley Sharp said...

Here is an accurate assessment of the Maryland race study.

Study 3: NO BIAS IN DEATH SENTENCING: U of Maryland's Death Penalty Study (1)

The following are direct quotes from the Executive Summary of the U of Maryland study.

Race of the victim

"The race of the victim effect does not hold up, however, at the decision of the state's attorney to advance a case to penalty trial and at the decision of the judge or jury to impose a death sentence given that a penalty trial has occurred." p 27

In other words, the victim's race has no impact on seeking or
giving death sentences.

"The race of the victim does not appear to matter when the decision is to advance a case to the penalty phase or to sentence a defendant to death after a penalty phase
hearing." page 29

In other words, the victim's race has no impact on seeking or
giving death sentences

"Among the subset of cases where the case actually does reach a penalty trial, the victim's race does not have a significant impact on the imposition of a death sentence." page 35

In fact, the study fails to demonstrate that there is any race of the victim effect in death sentencing in Maryland.

"When the prosecuting jurisdiction is added to the model the effect for the victims race diminishes substantially, and is no longer statistically significant." page 32

In other words, when you look at the capital murder cases, from each, separate jurisdiction, individually, any alleged race of the victim effect cannot be found.

" . . . any attempt to deal with any racial disparity in the imposition of the death penalty in Maryland cannot ignore the substantial variability that exists in different state's attorney's offices in the processing of death cases." p 34

In other words, it is important to look at how each jurisdiction handles their capital cases, because each jurisdiction is different. And when that is done, no bias in death sentencing is found.

Race of victim and defendant

"There is no race of the offender / victim effect at either the decision to advance a case to penalty hearing or the decision to sentence a defendant to death
given a penalty hearing." page 30

In other words, neither the race of the defendant nor the race of the victim have an impact on seeking or giving death sentences.

Race of the defendant

" . . . there is no evidence that the race of the defendant matters at any stage once case characteristics are controlled for." page 26

" . . . we found no evidence that the race of the defendant matters in processing of capital cases in the state." p 26

In other words, Maryland is not looking at race, but is concentrating on the nature of the murders.

(1) Executive Summary:
An Empirical Analysis of Maryland's Death Sentencing System with Respect to the Influence of Race and Legal Jurisdiction, www.urhome.umd.edu/newsdesk/pdf/exec.pdf

copyright 1998-2007 Dudley Sharp

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
email sharpjfa@aol.com, phone 713-622-5491
Houston, Texas

Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS, BBC and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

Pro death penalty sites
www(dot)yesdeathpenalty.com/deathpenalty_contents.htm (Sweden)

Andrew Kujan said...

Thank you for you time and your comment Mr. Sharp. However, your analysis suffers when you take quotes out of context, and then conflate them to mean more than they really do. You have managed to turn the study on it's head in this way.

one example:

Table 3A shows that even after
case factors and jurisdictional differences are taken into account, those who kill whites
are still significantly more likely to have the state’s attorney file a notification to seek the
death penalty. Table 3B reveals that the decision not to withdraw a death notification is
also related to the race of the victim. After considering jurisdiction and case
characteristics, state’s attorneys are significantly less likely to withdraw a death
notification if a white victim is killed compared with a non-white victim. This race of
victim effect does not hold up, however, at the decision of the state’s attorney to advance
a case to a penalty trial (Table 3C)17, and at the decision of the judge or jury to impose a
death sentence given that a penalty trial has occurred (Table 3D).

You quote only the bold section and claim:

In other words, the victim's race has no impact on seeking or
giving death sentences.

That is just not the case when the quote is taken in context.

Furthermore, the death penalty has more going against it than purported racist application. As was made clear in the execution of Saddam Hussein, it is often not the panacea we would wish it to be. In closing, I will continue to oppose the death penalty, racially biased or not.