Could this be the year that Maryland becomes the 18th state to repeal the death penalty? The reasons to end capital punishment are many, even though not all are widely known.

For instance, did you know that Maryland has only put to death five people since capital punishment was reinstated in 1978? And today, only five men sit on death row and there have been no executions since 2005.

Every one of those five men on death row was convicted in a case where the victim was white, even though at least 75 percent of all homicide victims in Maryland annually are African-American.  Even worse, the victim is white in all pending death sentences in Maryland. The racial bias of the death penalty is inescapable - and intolerable.

And while most Marylanders might know that Governor Martin O'Malley opposes the death penalty on moral grounds, not as many are aware why he made it a top priority in 2013. The Governor announced last month that, "The death penalty is expensive and it does not work.  And for that reason alone, I believe we should stop doing it."

Indeed, the financial costs are stark: The 2008 Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment found that one capital prosecution resulting in the death penalty costs our state about $3 million, that is $2 million more than the alternative of life without parole. In Maryland, a comparison of capital trial costs with and without the death penalty concluded that a death penalty case costs "approximately 42 percent more than a case resulting in a non-death sentence."  

And then there is the even more compelling human cost: The Commission noted that for every 8.7 Americans sent to death row, there has been one innocent person exonerated.

Thankfully, the tide in Maryland is turning. By a margin of 60 percent to 33 percent, Marylanders say life without parole is an acceptable alternative to the death penalty, according to a January 2011 poll by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies. Marylanders have shown that we value fairness and equality, and the time has come for a criminal justice system that is not racially biased. 

It is increasingly impossible to ignore the truth that the death penalty is deeply flawed. More and more people are calling for its end, and to date 17 states have abolished the death penalty. Now the time has finally come to make Maryland number 18.

Want to help? Urge your state legislators to support ending the death penalty in Maryland this year.

Originally posted at Moving Maryland Forward Network Blog

Stay informed

ACLU of Maryland is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National