Cumberland Times-News

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November 17, 2008

Death penalty opponents cite reasons to repeal

CUMBERLAND — Critics of the death penalty say it is a costly sentence that does not help deter violent crime and often splits victims’ families between those who want the ultimate form of justice and those who feel it does no good.

Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, said those who support the repeal of the death penalty in Maryland in favor of sentences including life without parole are hoping state lawmakers take up the issue in the upcoming legislative session.

Henderson and former Speaker of the House Cas Taylor said Thursday in an interview with the Times-News the death penalty is wrong on three counts: morally, philosophically and pragmatically. And, in light of the current economic crisis, it might be a budget issue to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Henderson cited a report commissioned by The Abell Foundation that analyzed 1,136 Maryland capital murder cases adjudicated between 1978 and 1999. Among the study’s findings: The death penalty has cost the state at least $186 million in the 21-year period; the cost of a single death sentence in Maryland is approximately three times higher than the costs of a comparable, non-death penalty case; and when the death penalty is imposed, the court costs jump to almost seven times higher.

The $186 million “is state spending over and above what Maryland would have spent had there been no death penalty,” the study found.

The effort to repeal the death penalty appears to be gaining momentum. A vote Tuesday by members of the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment voted by a slim margin to recommend repeal. Henderson said it wasn’t the final vote — members could vote again on Nov. 20 in Annapolis — and it was unclear in which direction some members were leaning. Updated information can be found online at http:// goccp.org/capital-punishment and www.mdcase.org.

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