Nun famous for work on death row lobbies in Annapolis

January 30, 2013|Erin Cox | The Baltimore Sun

Moments after Gov. Martin O'Malley urged lawmakers that "it is time to repeal the death penalty in Maryland and replace it with life without parole" during his State of the State speech Wednesday, a Roman Catholic nun famous for her repeal work resumed the effort to secure the votes.

Sister Helen Prejean, whose autobiography "Dead Man Walking" detailing her work with death row inmates was made into a movie, planned to meet Wednesday with undecided lawmakers. She said she was pleased that O'Malley had created a simple framework that cast the death penalty as an ineffective tool that isn't worth using.

At first, Prejean said, she was concerned that Maryland's discussion on repealing the death penalty relied on how expensive the process is compared to life without parole, but she said she found solace in remarks from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that a budget is a moral document. 


"If you're putting all your resources into killing a few people, into that machinery, you can't be putting it into anything else," Prejean said in an interview. "You can't be putting it into helping at-risk kids, you can't give it to law enforcement or community policing."

Prejean has worked in several states to end capital punishment and said of Maryland, "there's a sense of progressiveness, that we don't have to do things the way we used to do them because simply we're used to doing them."

Prejean she planned to explain to Catholic lawmakers how the church's teaching on the death penalty has evolved to opposing capital punishment. 

Montgomery County Del. Heather Mizeur, a Democrat, accompanied Prejean around the State House to meet with lawmakers. Mizeur said when "the chips were down" in the effort to repeal Maryland's death penalty last year, she reached out to Prejean to redouble work for 2013.

Passage in the Maryland Senate is widely considered key to repeal, but Mizeur said that advocates are not taking votes in the House of Delegates for granted. The measure has 67-cosponsors in the House, four shy of the necessary votes to pass.

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