Capital-Punishment Propaganda

Article excerpt


When the Maryland General Assembly meets next month, Gov. Martin O'Malley is expected to push to repeal the state's capital-punishment law. Since the current death-penalty statute was enacted in 1978, five men have been executed, the most recent being Wesley Baker on Dec. 5, 2005, for murdering a woman in front of her grandchildren during a 1991 robbery in Baltimore County.

In each of his first two years as governor, Mr. O'Malley tried unsuccessfully to end capital punishment in Maryland, and he's determined not to lose a third time. So, the governor decided to handle the problem the way progressive politicians in the state are wont to do - by appointing a commission and packing it with an anti-death-penalty majority that will give him the result he wants. Ergo he created the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, headed by Benjamin Civiletti, who served as attorney general under President Carter. The panel just issued a study calling for an end to capital punishment. It concludes that there is an unacceptable risk that an innocent person will be executed and that it is being administered in a racially discriminatory way. But they never produce any substantial evidence that prosecutors have tried to seek the death penalty based on a defendant's race. Nor do they even attempt to make the argument that any of the five men on Maryland's death row - Jody Miles, Heath Burch, John Booth-el, Vernon Evans or Anthony Grandison - are innocent of the murders they were convicted of. (Booth-el, Evans and Grandison have been on death row for 24 years; Burch and Miles are on death row for crimes committed more than a decade ago.)

Mr. Civiletti and his 11 co-signers also contend that there are jurisdictional disparities in the way capital punishment is administered in Maryland. In other words, they say there is something wrong with the fact that Maryland is divided into 24 jurisdictions with locally elected prosecutors with the authority to make their own decisions about capital punishment. In practical terms, this means that in more liberal jurisdictions like Baltimore City and Prince George's County, where opposition to executions runs high, prosecutors rarely seek the death penalty. …