Evidence supports death penalty in Md.

December 30, 2008|By Scott D. Shellenberger

The close vote (13-9) on the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment's findings regarding the death penalty in Maryland demonstrates that this is an issue upon which reasonable minds can differ. Indeed, looking at some of the same evidence the majority musters against the death penalty, our side finds grist for the opposite case.

What the majority calls "jurisdictional disparity," we call local rule - that is, elected officials reflecting the will of the citizens they represent.

Although the majority decries racial disparity, we found no evidence whatsoever of purposeful discrimination. The skewed statistics that the majority finds are as a result, again, of jurisdictional differences.

Where the majority focused on theoretical costs, we looked at costs in actual cases and realized that abolition of the death penalty would not result in any great savings of taxpayers' dollars.

While the majority looked at the weakness of DNA evidence, we focused on its strengths. With the great advances in DNA technology over the last 20 years, the chances of convicting and executing an innocent person have been greatly reduced. DNA brings another level of certainty to the process. There was no evidence offered that anyone executed in Maryland was innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.

In Maryland, the way the death penalty is applied is different than in other states. Texas has executed 414 people, Maryland five. Prior to 1976, Maryland executed 306. Because the death penalty system is used so seldom and so selectively, we believe it can work for those who commit the most heinous of crimes.

It is our strong belief that the death penalty should remain a sentencing option for those prosecutors who wish to seek it. The majority of Marylanders share our view that we must retain the death penalty as an available tool when prosecuting those murderers who are the worst of the worst.

Scott D. Shellenberger is the state's attorney for Baltimore County. His e-mail is statesattorney@baltimorecountymd.gov.

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