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Md. voters remain divided on death penalty

Maryland on the death penalty

Q. Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for people convicted of murder?

[Chart]

Q. Which punishment do you prefer for people convicted of murder?

[Chart]

The death penalty has sparked intense debate in Maryland in recent years -- but attitudes among residents haven't changed much.

Sixty percent of Marylanders favor use of the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 32 percent are opposed, according to a new Washington Post poll.

Those figures don't tell the entire story: Given a choice, more say they prefer the punishment of life in prison with no chance of parole than the death penalty -- by 49 percent to 40 percent.

Neither result has changed much since The Post asked the same questions three years ago.

In 2007, 60 percent supported the death penalty, while 35 percent opposed. And 52 percent said they preferred life without parole for those convicted of murder, while 43 percent said they preferred the death penalty.

Since then, efforts by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to repeal the death penalty have repeatedly fallen short in the General Assembly. Those bills all sought to replace capital punishment with life without parole.

O'Malley has been an outspoken opponent of the death penalty since taking office in 2007, arguing that it is "inherently unjust," not an effective deterrent and saps resources that could be better spent preventing crime.

His chief Republican rival, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) has vowed to make O'Malley's handling of the death penalty an issue in this year's campaign, accusing O'Malley of "shenanigans" to avoid carrying out a law with which he disagrees personally.

Maryland has had a de facto moratorium on capital punishment since December 2006, when the state's highest court ruled that procedures for lethal injections had not been properly adopted.

To date, O'Malley has not implemented new regulations that would allow executions to resume. He claims his administration is moving diligently in that direction, but advocates on both sides of the issue say they strongly doubt any of Maryland's five condemned inmates will be executed before the November election.

The state's last execution took place in 2005, when Ehrlich was governor.

Though O'Malley's position is riskier politically, neither candidate appears too far out of step with their political base on the issue.

The Post poll found that 75 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of independents favor the death penalty. Democrats are more evenly divided, with 48 percent in favor of its use and 44 percent opposed.

Given the choice between the two penalties, Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to prefer the death penalty, while independents are evenly split, with just as many favoring life without parole.

The poll also underscored racial and gender divisions over the issue. Whites are far more likely than blacks to support the death penalty (70 percent to 43 percent), and more men than women support capital punishment (66 percent to 54 percent).

-- John Wagner and Jennifer Agiesta


By John Wagner  |  May 11, 2010; 1:02 PM ET
Categories:  John Wagner  
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Comments

Again, the WashPost Governor MO'M bais shows itself. Yesterday is was touting the alleged voter turn around in favoring gay marriage, today its "Md. voters remain divided on death penalty." Well, excuse me, it doesn't seem like MD voters are as divided as you would suggestion. According to your own survery, 60% answered that they do favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder. I know you'll write a very nice "this is a tough one editorial" when you ultimately extoll the superior virtue of MO'M when you endorse him. As night follows day, you are already endorsing MO'M with you content.

Posted by: lovinliberty | May 11, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Maryland should have a three strikes and you are out law. And by that I mean - three felonies and your parts are donated to organ banks - meaning you are out of here...

There is no reason to keep career violent criminals on this planet.

Posted by: b1978367 | May 11, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see that Maryland voters agree with China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and ... well, pretty much nobody else ... that routine use of the death penalty is good public policy.

Posted by: kcx7 | May 11, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: kcx7
"Glad to see that Maryland voters agree with China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and ... well, pretty much nobody else..."

What an idiotic statement. What you fail to mention (or possibly recognize) is the U.S. justice system is far superior to that of the countries you cite. Not to mention, the appeals process which can last for years.

Therefore, if 1) you receive a fair trial 2) are found guilty beyond reasonable doubt 3) receive the death penalty and 4) fail to reverse that decision through appeals (or a pardon by the Governor), then the death penalty is your sentence. Period.

You're insane to compare our legal system (or Maryland's overall support of the death penalty) to that of other countries.

Posted by: anela_jett | May 11, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

The death penalty serves no real purpose, other than finding a false sense of justice. As long as there is a chance an innocent person may be put to death, then it should not be an option. Life in prison without parole should be the norm. Being found "guilty" by a jury doesn't make an innocent person guilty.

Posted by: jckdoors | May 11, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Another WaPo headline that has to be re-written: "Sizable Majority of Md. Voters Still Support Death Penalty"

Hell, they even added a follow-on question and still couldn't get the response they wanted so they just wiggle the headline to try to give the wrong impression.

And by the way, there is no such thing as 'life in prison' or 'life in prison without parole'. Such penalties do not exist.

Posted by: srb2 | May 11, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

How about the death penalty for prisoners that kill somebody while in prison serving life without parole? How about the death penalty for child molesters as they can't be cured! Why should law abiding people be forced to pay for the support of killers and child molesters? 20, 30, maybe 40 years adds up to a lot of money spent housing, food, medical for lifers that could be better spent!!

What can anyone exspect from a lawyer from Baltimore City? What can anyone exspect from a lawyer that panders to the residents of P.G. Co.?

Posted by: doughboy96 | May 11, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Anela_Jett it isn't that simple. Of the 5 men on death row 4 are black, but all are on death row because they murdered white victims. There is something inherently wrong in the Justice system in the United States. Statistics show that generally crime is black on black or white on white. If that is the case, why are the victims of the black men all white? Had their victims been black would they currently be on death row? Furthermore, Kirk Bloodsworth spent 9 years in a Maryland prison before he was cleared of murder charges. I would bet you wouldn’t want to spend 9 years in prison for a crime you didn’t commit, but that is the legal system you are approving of.

Posted by: TMB1 | May 11, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

"Why should law abiding people be forced to pay for the support of killers and child molesters? 20, 30, maybe 40 years adds up to a lot of money spent housing, food, medical for lifers that could be better spent!!"

Because when you calculate the cost of death row imprisonment, appeals, and all the other incidentals of the death penalty, life without parole is cheaper on average. That's pretty attractive in the current economy.

Posted by: jlhare1 | May 11, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

To kcx7: What's the violent crime rate in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea? Is that purely a coincidence?

Posted by: Bethesdan | May 11, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Why not ask what people would prefer for the murder of a child? It appears that the Post is attempting to counteract the death penalty numbers by asking the question about what penalty to use. I have watched the Washington Post for years try to bend what is obvious. The American people by a substantial margin support the use of the death penalty. The Washington Post does not support the death penalty. We all know that. Please report the news and try not to shape opinion. It doesn't work anyway.

Posted by: bobbo2 | May 11, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

The death penalty serves no real purpose, other than finding a false sense of justice. As long as there is a chance an innocent person may be put to death, then it should not be an option. Life in prison without parole should be the norm. Being found "guilty" by a jury doesn't make an innocent person guilty.

Posted by: jckdoors
-----
Life in prison serves no real purpose, other than finding a false sense of justice. As long as there is a chance an innocent person can be behind bars for life without parole, then what? If life without parole was the norm, then the appeals process for that sentence would become just as costly. According to your 'chance of innocence' logic, how would you put anyone behind bars?

I would definitely sleep better at nights knowing that an innocent person was behind bars for life without parole rather than just without life. Now there's a false sense of justice.

Posted by: shhhhh | May 11, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Bethesdan wrote:
"To kcx7: What's the violent crime rate in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea? Is that purely a coincidence?"

Are you suggesting that we should emulate the fine examples of China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and try to make our society more like theirs?

Posted by: yrral | May 11, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

TMB1 said "Actually, Anela_Jett it isn't that simple. Of the 5 men on death row 4 are black, but all are on death row because they murdered white victims..."

TMB1 - you can cite race and/or skewed statistics all day long, but my reply to kcx7 stands. There is no comparison of the US justice system to that of China, Iran, Saudia Arabia, North Korea.

While NO system is perfect, I will continue to stand behind, support and approve of our justice system vs. the countries above (btw...if you had to choose, I'll bet it would be the US courts too!).

It's a no-brainer, really. Just ask the families of those who are regularly hung in downtown IRAN for crimes such as adultry, drug possession, disturbing public safety, etc.

Posted by: anela_jett | May 12, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Bethesdan wrote:
"To kcx7: What's the violent crime rate in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea? Is that purely a coincidence?"

"yrral wrote:
Are you suggesting that we should emulate the fine examples of China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and try to make our society more like theirs?"

No, that's not what I'm suggesting at all. What I am suggesting is that there is much less violent crime in those places, and we should consider the cause/effect of the death penalty before writing it off as an ineffective deterrent. It's the same logic behind considering the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, or the French diet; we want the health benefits without turning the U.S. into Greece or France. Personally, I think that the causes of crime in the U.S. (intrinsically violent society, illegal immigrants, breakdown in family structures, availability of guns, glorification of violence, and the myth of economic entitlement) are way too complicated to be addressed by one measure alone; but I'm not ready to throw out any single measure without understanding whether it has value.

Posted by: Bethesdan | May 12, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

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