The Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment voted on November 12 to recommend the abolitiion of the death penalty in the state. In a 13-7 vote, the Commission cited the possibility that an innocent person could be mistakenly executed, as well as geographical and racial disparities in how it is used. Benjamin Civiletti, the chair of the commission and a former U.S. attorney general, said, “It’s haphazard in how it’s applied, and that’s terribly unfair.”

The Chairman also shared that he does not have a moral opposition to the death penalty but is against it because of cost, the potential for an innocent person to be executed, and jurisdictional disparities. Panel members concluded that there was a “real possibility” an innocent person could someday be executed in Maryland. A commission member who was on death row for a murder he did not commit, Kirk Bloodsworth, said, “In 1985, I went to death row for two years.” He continued, “Now if that’s not real, I don’t know what is.” He was later cleared by DNA evidence.

The panel also found no persuasive evidence to support deterrence of homicides in Maryland through the use of the death penalty. A report will be prepared for the General Assembly by December 15 explaining the Commission’s recommendation and including the minority point of view.

(B. White, Associated Press, “Commission Votes to Abolish Death Penalty in Md.,” November 13, 2008). See Recent Legislative Activity, Costs, and Innocence.