As part of their ongoing national campaign to abolish the death penalty, NAACP officials met with Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley in Annapolis Dec. 13 to discuss the future of capital punishment in the state.

NAACP President and CEO Todd Jealous expressed confidence that the governor would throw his weight behind their effort to repeal the state law.

“We must end the death penalty in Maryland this year,” Jealous said in a statement. “This is a matter of justice and a matter of safety. We are optimistic that Maryland will be the sixth state in six years to abolish the death penalty. We are moving closer to abolishing it in the country as a whole.”

The anti-death penalty campaign may be gaining momentum in the state. Gov. O’Malley has long voiced his opposition to the punishment—he sponsored a repeal bill in 2009, but it is not clear if he will introduce another in the upcoming 90-day General Assembly, which begins Jan. 9.

Meanwhile, legislation currently in the state’s Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee would repeal capital punishment while reallocating $500,000 annually to the Maryland Victims of Crime Fund, which addresses the needs of murder victims’ families.

“Today’s meeting went very well,” NAACP Maryland State Conference President Gerald Stansbury said. “Our branches across the state, in conjunction with our partners, will continue to do everything they can to keep the momentum going and repeal the death penalty this year. The Prince George’s County Branch is particularly integral to this effort.”

In 1978, Maryland reinstated the death penalty as a sentencing option for those found guilty of felony homicide. Since then, five inmates have been executed and five others are on death row awaiting execution.

Momentum against capital punishment grew after a 2003 University of Maryland study, commissioned by then-Gov. Parris Glendenning found that death sentences in Maryland were skewed by the race of the victim and the jurisdiction of the crime. All five inmates who were executed in the state so far were convicted of killing a White person, although 75 percent of homicide victims in this state are Black.

A 2008 study by the Urban Institute offered another argument against the death penalty. Not only is the practice biased, it suggested, but also economically infeasible. An average capital punishment case resulting in a death sentence costs the state approximately $3 million, $1.9 million more than a case where the death penalty is not sought. Cumulatively, the study concluded, having the punishment has cost the state $186 million.

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO