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Capital Punishment at the Capitol


Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) testified this afternoon in favor of repealing the death penalty during back to back legislative hearings in the Senate and the House.

Aides said O'Malley, who is Catholic, argued that the cost of prosecuting death penalty cases in Maryland far exceeds the cost of lifelong imprisonment and that capital punishment has not proved to be an effective crime deterrent. He explained his position in a Washington Post op-ed article today.

Before the hearings begin this Ash Wednesday, a group of men sentenced to death row only to be cleared later, hold a news conference at the State House.

Sen. Lisa A. Gladden (D-Baltimore), a lead bill sponsor, said O'Malley's backing of the legislation has made her optimistic about the bill's passage.

"It feels like it has mega-energy," Gladden said. "When you have friends in high places, it makes some difference. For years, I've been feeling like I'm whistling in the dark."

Ovatta Wiggins

By Phyllis Jordan  |  February 21, 2007; 9:38 AM ET
Categories:  Governor  
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"Aides said O'Malley, who is Catholic, will argue that the cost of prosecuting death penalty cases in Maryland far exceeds the cost of lifelong imprisonment."

That's interesting to know, but it doesn't seem like an apples-to-apples comparison. It compares prosecution costs for death penalty cases to the cost of imprisoning someone for life. Wouldn't it be more informative to compare prosecution costs for death penalty cases to prosecution costs for life imprisonment cases? Or the cost of performing a death penalty vs. the cost of imprisoning someone for life?

The op-ed seems to have the same issue. It says that "processing and imprisoning a death penalty defendant 'costs $400,000 over and above . . . a prisoner serving a life sentence.'"

Posted by: gsb | February 21, 2007 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Hooray for Gov. O'Malley. Americans want leaders who will pursue a hopeful, forward-looking agenda and challenge us to support policies that address real solutions. Gov. O'Malley is talking about taking the death penalty's exhorbitant cost to taxpaers and investing this money where it counts -- in our communities and neighborhoods, in crime prevention programs that will make my friends and family safer. I see real opportunity in the governor's agenda.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 21, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

There are currently 6 people on Death Row in Maryland. Take the number of people serving life without parole and figure in the costs involved. Suddenly, the cost of prosecuting the relatively few people given death sentences in Maryland becomes insignificant.

Posted by: BG from PG | February 21, 2007 7:43 PM | Report abuse

There seems to be a bit of confusion among readers about the cost issue. First, while there are only 6 people on death row, that doesn't mean that there have only been six death-penalty cases tried. There have been many more. Second, the cost of prosecuting death cases, even if there are far fewer death than life cases, is hardly "insignificant" -- you are talking about huge sums of money that could be instead used for things like victims' services and law enforcement. It's an AWFUL lot of money for such a small number of death row inmates, and could instead be spent to benefit more people directly.

Also, comparing the costs of death versus life cases is difficult, but think of it this way: Person A is tried, convicted, sentenced to death and executed. Person B is tried, convicted, sentenced to life and serves that sentence for the rest of his life (let's say that's 30 years). Using that comparison (which is as "apples to apples" as you can get), the ultimate costs of a life sentence far outweigh the ultimate costs of a death sentence.

The fact that the Governor is concerned about the costs of this system speaks volumes to his integrity. It's his job to be concerned about the issue of how taxpayer money is being spent.

Posted by: hittery | February 22, 2007 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Will there be a petition to recall O'Malley like the guy in Calif?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 22, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to Gov. O'Malley and Maryland Citizens

Against State Executions! Maryland can lead the nation by Abolition the death

penalty. The reports that we have executed innocent men should shake the soul of

every American. It is the time for America to abolish this barbaric practice all


Posted by: Hooman Hedayati | February 22, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I agree that hittery's Person A vs. Person B comparison is an apples-to-apples comparison -- something that the article and the Governor do not appear to be providing -- so thank you. Also, hittery may very well be correct in concluding that the total costs of life imprisonment outweigh the total costs of the death penalty, though if that is true, I wouldn't be so quick to praise the Governor's integrity since that would then mean he is supporting the more expensive of the two options. My only point is that if the Governor wants to promote his position based on cost (which he is not obligated to do since the moral considerations are so significant), he should provide an intellectually honest cost comparison. For all I know, maybe he is doing so, and his op-ed and the above article were just worded inaccurately.

Posted by: gsb | February 22, 2007 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Will the gov lift a finger to prevent the execution of a single unborn innocent who has never even been accused of anything let alone be found guilty by a jury of a particular heinous crime?

Yeah, we can guess that it's ok for the babies to die.

Posted by: Rufus | February 26, 2007 1:20 PM | Report abuse

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