Sentence Near Under Maryland's New Death Penalty Law

In 2009, Maryland changed its capital punishment law, sharply limiting when the death penalty could be sought. Prosecutors can only pursue the death penalty in cases of first degree murder when there is DNA or other biological evidence linking the defendant to a murder, a video-taped confession by the defendant, or a video linking the defendant to the murder. As the first case testing this statute nears completion, DPIC’s Executive Director, Richard Dieter (pictured), was interviewed on Maryland Morning with Sheila Kast about the new statute. Listen to full interview here. Dieter noted, “There’s certainly a danger that it doesn’t do what the death penalty is most designed to do, which is to get the ‘worst of the worst’ - the most heinous crimes committed by the most dangerous criminal. [The Maryland law] only requires the coincidence that there be DNA or that there be a camera rolling … It still doesn’t deal with the problems of bias and geographical disparities. It tries to deal with the innocence question and in doing so discards the usual rationale for the death penalty of … the worst get the worst punishment.” The current case involves a prison inmate accused of killing a correctional officer. Blood drops from the officer were found on the defendant’s clothing, though defense attorneys maintain their client was merely present at the scene along with other inmates and did not kill the guard. Maryland legislators are currently considering a bill to repeal the death penalty. Interview.

(S. Kast, “The Application of the Death Penalty,” WYPR 88.1 Baltimore, February 15, 2012). See Arbitrariness. Read more about Recent Legislative Activity related to the death penalty.