Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment Calls for Abolition of Death Penalty


The Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, appointed by Governor Martin O’Malley to examine the state’s death penalty, concluded on November 12, 2008, that Maryland’s capital punishment system is too costly, makes too many mistakes, and fails to deter crime.

The commission considered four months of testimony, statistics, and debate — including testimony on July 28, 2008, from EJI Director Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson testified about racial bias and the death penalty and how the tolerance of racial bias in capital punishment undermines the integrity of the criminal justice system more broadly. He urged Maryland to end the use of capital punishment.

The commission will recommend that Maryland’s death penalty be repealed in a 110-page report to the governor and state legislature next month.

Made up of prosecutors, lawmakers, clergy, law enforcement officials, a former death row inmate, and family members of murder victims, the commission found a number of critical flaws in the state’s capital punishment system, such as racial bias and arbitrariness among prosecutors in seeking the death penalty. For example, a 2004 study showed prosecutors in Baltimore County were about 13 times more likely than those in the City of Baltimore to pursue the death penalty.

The commission also found that a death penalty case costs about $1.9 million more than a similar case in which prosecutors seek life in prison but is not an effective deterrent to crime. It considered the emotional cost to victims’ families of enduring the long appeals process and found that DNA testing does not eliminate the risk of executing an innocent person.