In 2005, Maryland tied Louisiana with the highest murder rate in the country. Like all the states on the top-10 murder list, our state has the death penalty. That same year, states without the death penalty averaged murder rates about a third of Maryland's. Further, more than half of all law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty fell in the South --- where the vast majority of executions take place. Less than 10% of the officers fell in the Northeast, where executions are rare
Over the last couple of decades, death penalty states have significantly outpaced non-death penalty states in murder rates. In 1990, death penalty states averaged a 4% highr murder rate than non-death penalty states. That gap grew to 35% by the year 2000, and 46% by 2005.
Having the death penalty means we risk executing a person who is innocent. Over the past 25 years, more than 120 innocent men and women sentenced to death were freed after evidence showed they were innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted.
In Maryland, lawyers probably don't sleep through trials. We are not Texas or Virginia. Yet despite the very best efforts of police, prosecutors, judges, jurors, witnesses, and defense attorneys, mistakes can and do happen here.
Mistakes happen in Maryland
Kirk Bloodsworth was sentenced to death in Baltimore County for the rape and murder of nine-year-old Dawn Hamilton. DNA testing proved he didn't commit the crime and he was released after nearly a decade behind bars.
Anthony Gray was threatened with the Death penalty for a 1991 rape and murder he did not commit. With borderline mental retardation, Gray confessed to avoid execution and served seven years of a life sentence. DNA testing later exonerated him and found the real killer.
Keith Longtin's wife was brutally raped and murdered in 1999. After interrogating him for over 38 hours without sleep or a lawyer, Prince Georges County police claimed he confessed. By the time DNA pointed to the real killer, Longtin had spent eight months in jail. In the meantime, the man who killed his wife was free to commit six more brutal rapes.
These men were "lucky". They were exonerated with DNA evidence, available in only about 10% of all murder cases. How many condemned men in Maryland also have been wrongly convicted?
Maryland can and does sentence heinous murderers to life without the possibility of parole --- a swift and severe punishment that guarantees we will never execute the wrong person. Repealing the death penalty would make this the maximum sentence in our state.