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Blog Roundup: Maryland Death Penalty

Even before the bill to abolish Maryland's death penalty began to move through the legislative process, moving to debate this afternoon, the blogosphere began chattering about the legislation.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, the driving force behind the legislation, made his case on the Huffington Post on Monday, arguing that the death penalty costs too much ($3 million to prosecute a death penalty homicide versus $1.1 million for a case in which the death penalty isn't on the table), that the money saved could be used better to prevent crime, and that the death penalty is racially biased in Maryland.

"But there's the deeper consideration, the one that makes Tuesday a turning point in our shared moral life. It's our chance to answer important questions about who we are as citizens and as stewards of the society we'll leave our children," he writes. "Our free and diverse republic wasn't founded on fear and retribution, but on justice, the dignity of the individual, and equal rights before the law."

Political College Student, a blog written by a student at Mount St. Mary's University, supports O'Malley's call for abolition: "Good for O'Malley and Maryland. I hope they do ban the death penalty. I wish I could encourage Maryland State Senators to ban the death penalty but alas I am from the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts where we have already ended the practice. And yes, I did say that with an air of moral superiority."

He also added two more arguments in favor of abolition: that the "worst of the worst" in society that the death penalty is intended for aren't actually fazed by the possibility of receiving it because their everyday lives are just as dangerous, and that the government has no moral justification to kill its citizens.

The Baltimore Sun's Dan Rodricks similarly called for Maryland's senate to abolish the death penalty, citing reasonings from novelist Scott Turow (who served on the Illinois governor's commission on the death penalty under former Gov. George Ryan) as well as arguments of racial bias.

Meanwhile, at the Thomas Jefferson Street blog from U.S. News and World Report, John Aloysius Farrell wrote of E.C. Divine, a Chicago businessman tried for fraud committed by his near lookalike. An airtight alibi was the only thing that saved him. The prosecutor in the case was famed defender Clarence Darrow (of the Scopes monkey trial.)

Farrell wrote: "To the Supreme Court's conservative justices, and to the legislators of the Free State, all of whom are considering the risks of condemning innocent men and women to imprisonment, or death, I offer Darrow's final thoughts on the matter.

'Mr. Divine was the only man I ever prosecuted,' the chastened attorney said. 'As I escaped sending this innocent man to prison, so help me God I will never prosecute another.' "

Curiously, there was a distinct lack of pro-death penalty content on the Web. The few articles available attacked O'Malley personally rather than discussing the merits of the penalty or legislation. The basic arguments in favor of the death penalty are available here (click the tabs at the bottom of the page).

By Carolyn Phenicie  |  March 3, 2009; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly  
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Next: Death Penalty Debate: Referendum Proposal Fails


I watched the movie "The Changeling" the other night: the heartbreaking true-life story of a young boy who is kidnapped in 1928 and (presumably) killed by a serial child murderer.

As I watched a reenactment of the execution of the killer, I could not share the view of many pompous national film critics who called the scene "unbearable." Indeed, I hoped the authorities had botched the execution in real life; made it go on a bit longer to extend the deserved agony of the convict.

The real life criminal depicted in that film killed as many as 20 young boys (with an axe!), resulting in life long emotional turmoil to dozens of, if not a hundred, family members.

Was the death penalty appropriate for that clown? Damn right it was; worse was appropriate, torture perhaps.

Is capital punishment still appropriate today? You bet. As long as we have "monsters" among us, the death penalty will sometimes be the only just punishment. While it will not bring folks back, it can be the next best thing.

I will not argue that the death penalty today can sometimes be overused for lesser cases or that the authorities can sometimes make mistakes, but with tighter controls and advanced DNA technology, these unfortunate occurrences can be reduced.

The bottom line is we still need the death penalty as an option, albeit a rarely exercised one. Perhaps judges should reserve it for perpetrators of the most heinous crimes.

Posted by: RealTexan1 | March 3, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Eye for an eye!

Posted by: RealChoices | March 3, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

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