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Governor, Civil Rights Leaders Call for End to Death Penalty

Gale Horton Gay | 1/16/2013, 12:44 p.m.

Calling the death penalty expensive and ineffective, Maryland's governor and other political and civil rights leaders announced that they are making a concerted effort to put an end to the death penalty in Maryland.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Jan. 15 at the Lawyers Mall outside the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Gov. Martin O'Malley said he planned to file legislation to repeal the death penalty.

"The death penalty does not work," said O'Malley. "The death penalty does not prevent violent crime and the taking of human life."

O'Malley was joined at the press conference by numerous political leaders and government officials including Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, National NAACP President and Chief Executive Office Benjamin Todd Jealous and others.

O'Malley also pointed out that five countries execute the most people: Iran, North Korea, China, Yemen and the United States. However 121 countries have chosen to abolish capital punishment.

Jealous said capital punishment "squanders millions of dollars every year" and that the threat of it leads to false confessions. He and others spoke of innocent individuals who have been convicted of crimes and put to death but later are exonerated.

Jealous said if the death penalty is repealed in Maryland, it would help to strengthen an effort to go before the U.S. Supreme Court to knock down the death penalty nationwide.

The NAACP has made abolishing capital punishment in Maryland a national priority and is working with several other organizations in the state. Jealous said that replacing the death penalty with life without parole sentences is the right thing to do.

"We are here today to re-commit ourselves to justice and fairness," said Brown.

"Make no mistake abolishing the death penalty does not dishonor victims of violent crime," Brown said. He also asked two men in the audience to stand. Brown said that they had been sentenced to death row but were later exonerated. He also cited statistics about race and the death penalty.

"We must end this misguided belief that the death penalty will put an end to crime," said Brown.