Senate Votes to Repeal Maryland Death Penalty

3/8/2013, 1:26 p.m.

The NAACP has expressed optimism over repeal of Maryland's death penalty, after the Senate took a stand this week for a more effective criminal justice system.

In a vote of 27 to 20, the Senate on March 6 passed legislation in Maryland to repeal its death penalty. Having won bipartisan support, the bill now moves to the House of Delegates in anticipation of approval.

"Today's Senate vote brings Maryland one step closer to fixing a broken justice system," Benjamin Todd Jealous, NAACP president and CEO said on Wednesday. "We are optimistic that the House of Delegates will also vote to repeal and that capital punishment will be relegated to the history books of this state."

Abolition of Maryland's death penalty is part of a larger campaign led by the NAACP and other civil rights organizations. If the legislation gets the House's nod -- according to the Associated Press -- Maryland would become the sixth state in six years to abolish the death penalty, and the 18th to ban it. While the death penalty was banned in Connecticut last year, in recent years it has also been banned in New Mexico, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey.

Overall, 17 states, plus the District of Columbia, do not have the death penalty.

Jealous added that with abolition of the "immoral, ineffective, racially biased and fiscally wasteful practice," Maryland's repeal should be replaced with life without the possibility of parole.

"With the passage of the Death Penalty Repeal, the Maryland State Senate continues to demonstrate the leadership that citizens expect when we vote," said Gerald Stansbury, Maryland NAACP president. "While the African-American community has been disproportionately affected by the death penalty, families of all races are affected and believe the death penalty has no place in our society. Today, they can be hopeful that the great state of Maryland, once again, will be on the right side of equality and justice, and history."

The Senate's vote was the first on whether Maryland should continue death sentences since 1978.

Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, said the vote marks a major milestone for the state of Maryland.

"I'm proud of the Senate for recognizing that the only way to strengthen our criminal justice system is to eliminate this ineffective death penalty," she said, adding that "this is not a moral issue of whether or not the worst criminals deserve capital punishment. This is about an arbitrary practice that is racially biased, costly and has a detrimental impact on murder victims' families."

The legislation has received the strong support of Gov. Martin O'Malley, who has made its passage a priority this session. The governor and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown both testified in favor of repeal during recent committee hearings.

(Sources: NAACP.org, Newsone)