Maryland's death penalty has been repealed, making it the 18th state to abolish executions. Instead of the death penalty, the state's harshest sentence will now be life without parole.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley pledged to overturn the death penalty, citing a variety of reasons, reports The Washington Post. However, proponents of the death penalty argue that life imprisonment may not be enough in certain circumstances.
During legislative debates, lawmakers pointed to some specific flaws with Maryland's death penalty. Here are five of the most signifcant:
- It's too expensive. You may assume that executing prisoners is more cost-effective than housing them for life. However, someone typically remains on death row for many years and will accrue massive legal bills in an effort to save his life. These costs can sometimes exceed the price of housing an inmate for life.
- It's prone to errors. The criminal justice system is not infallible, and sometimes mistakes are made. Perhaps there is no greater tragedy of justice than when an innocent man is put to death only to be exonerated of the crime posthumously.
- It's racially biased. Of the five men currently on death row in Maryland, four are African-Americans who have been accused of killing a white person, reports Reuters. This speaks volumes of the possible prejudice and bias with juries, prosecutors, and the justice system.
- It's not a deterrent. There is no support for the notion that states with the death penalty have a lower murder rate than states without it, lawmakers argued. In fact, the opposite may be true, Gov. O'Malley has said.
Maryland's death penalty repeal now heads to O'Malley's desk for his signature. Since 2007, Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, and New Jersey have also repealed the death penalty, citing similar reasons to those mentioned above.