The use of the death penalty is one of the very first social issues that I remember feeling extremely passionate about. It was the topic of the first debate paper I ever wrote as a freshman in high school. I remember reading studies about the immense cost of prosecuting and carrying out a sentence of execution. I studied deterrent research that never seemed to come up with the same answer twice. I looked at cases of those sentenced to death who were exonerated by DNA evidence. More than anything, I tried to understand how we, as a society, could justify taking a life, no matter what crime had been committed. I’ve always felt extremely invested in the politics of the death penalty. And that’s why I’m so thrilled to hear that the Maryland State Senate has voted to repeal the death penalty in their state.
After a long and emotional battle, the legislature to repeal the death penalty has passed and moves one step closer to being the law of the land in Maryland. If the bill passes through the House, as it is expected to, it will be seen as a legislative victory for the Democratic Governor of the state, Martin O’Malley. He said after the vote, “It’s time to end this ineffective and expensive practice and put our efforts behind crime fighting strategies that work.”
Much of the efforts to repeal the death penalty around the country have been focused on cost. The amount of money that will be spent on the death penalty was a huge part of the campaign to end the practice in California, where the measure was on the 2012 ballot. And obviously, the money is an issue. But it’s not the only one.
The fact is that sometimes, our justice system makes mistakes. We all know this. It has been proven with cases that were overturned. We should never be okay with the fact that we might be executing an innocent person. A jailed man or woman can be freed. An executed prisoner can not be brought back to life.
These are the easy arguments to make. The cost and the chance for error alone should be enough to end this practice in our country. But there’s a moral reality that most people don’t like to debate, that politicians don’t want to get into. It’s that the justice system would murder anyone, would end a life, as if that makes up for whatever horrific crime occurred.
I have actually been on the victim’s side of the court room, listening to a sentence being handed down to a man who brutally murdered a family member. This criminal took little responsibility for his actions. He showed no remorse. And I’ve held crying loved ones who grieved because of his actions. All of us wanted justice, but none of us wanted to see more death.
Maryland is the latest state that will soon stop the practice of killing its citizens for their crimes. I hope that the rest of the country will follow in their footsteps.