Capital Punishment

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT: (2005)
 
Support for
  1. The abolition of the death penalty.
  2. For so long as Maryland has a death penalty, the League supports the following reforms for its equitable and consistent application:
    • a. uniform, statewide, criteria for death penalty prosecutions.
    • b. changing the standard of proof in weighing of aggravating and mitigating factors in sentencing from “preponderance of the evidence” to “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
    • c. requiring prosecutors to provide open file discovery and all favorable evidence to the defense, and to establish uniform internal guidelines for cases that are particularly subject to human error, such as those relying on eyewitnesses, co-defendants or jailhouse informants.
    • d. having mechanisms for preserving evidence such as DNA and for introducing newly discovered evidence.
    • e. requiring judges to explain to jurors life without parole as a sentencing option and to charge the jury to weigh mitigating factors.
    • f. effective defense including methods to screen, appoint and supervise lawyers representing defendants charged with capital crimes, adequate compensation for public defense counsel and sufficient funding to mount an effective defense.
Background: Nationwide the use of the death penalty has decreased and since 1973 over 100 persons have been exonerated and released from death row for a variety of reasons. In 2002 Governor Glendening issued an execution moratorium, pending the completion of a University of Maryland study on administration of the death penalty. This study found geographic and racial disparities in how the death penalty is handed down in Maryland. Delegates to the 2003 LWVMD Convention adopted a study as to whether Maryland should continue to have a death penalty;  and for so long as there is a death penalty, how it should be applied. In 2006, LWVUS adopted, by concurrence at the national convention, a position in support of repeal of the death penalty. A 2006 decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals that the state’s lethal injection procedures had not been properly adopted, has resulted in a defacto moratorium on executions until or unless new regulations are approved.
 
Action:
  • Issued an action alert to members urging them to contact the Governor to halt the execution of Wesley Eugene Baker and commute his sentence to life in prison without parole. (2005)
  • Supported legislation that would repeal the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole. Repeal of the death penalty was a 2007 legislative priority. The League was a partner with Maryland Citizens Against State Executions (MDCASE) as it worked to change attitudes about the death penalty among legislators and constituents. The bill failed to make it out of the Judiciary Committee by one vote. (2007 – not achieved)
  • Again supported legislation that would repeal the death penalty in 2009. The final enacted bill restricts the death penalty to murder cases with biological evidence such as DNA, videotaped evidence of the murder or a videotaped confession. (2009 – partially achieved)