Delay in prosecuting killers of officer McGuinn shows need to abolish capital punishment

July 28, 2011

All of us mourn the senseless killing of Maryland corrections officer David McGuinn, who was murdered at the Maryland House of Correction in 2006. ("New death penalty law, appeals delay trials in killing of correctional officer," July 25.)

The article highlights the five-year delay in bringing a prosecution in Mr. McGuinn's murder. Some of that delay was the unintended result of passage in 2009 of important new evidentiary requirements in Maryland's death penalty statute.

This case highlights the challenges that prosecutors face in mounting a capital case. With a defendant's life in the balance, our state and federal constitutions require that the criminal justice system provide every safeguard to ensure that justice is done.

This often leads to long delays in death penalty cases that postpone a final resolution and force murder victims' loved ones to relive details of the crime in court proceedings time and again.

For justice to be served, it should be swift and sure; neither is possible in a death penalty case. Had the prosecutor sought a penalty of life without the possibility of parole, instead of the death penalty, this case would likely have been resolved long before now.

There is a solution. Let's stop trying to "fix" Maryland's death penalty and abolish capital punishment, as Illinois, New Mexico and New Jersey have done in recent years. Let's focus instead on criminal justice approaches that are more effective and provide support to the families of crime victims.

Sen. Lisa Gladden and Del. Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg, Baltimore

The writers are Democrats and represent the 41st District in the Maryland General Assembly. They have been lead sponsors of legislation to repeal Maryland's death penalty.

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