From the Annapolis Capital:
“The death penalty in Maryland is not uniform … It is a happenstance of color and jurisdiction,” said Benjamin Civiletti, a former U.S. attorney general and the commission chairman. “Systemically, the system does not treat one proportionately. It doesn’t treat similar crimes in a similar fashion.”
Among the report’s findings on Maryland’s death penalty:
Cases involving an African-American accused of killing a white person are 2.5 times more likely to get the death penalty than cases with a Caucasian person accused of killing someone who is also white.
Capital punishment has pronounced regional disparities. Someone in Baltimore County is almost 23 times more likely to get a death sentence than someone who committed a similar crime in Baltimore City.
Capital cases cost almost three times more than non-death penalty prosecution.
Maryland’s capital cases had an 80 percent reversal rate from 1995 to 2007.
“For all of these reasons – to eliminate racial and jurisdictional bias, to reduce unnecessary costs, to lessen the misery that capital cases force victims of family members to endure, to eliminate the risk that an innocent person can be convicted – the commission strongly recommends that capital punishment be abolished in Maryland,” the report says.
The Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment is a good example of how a Texas Commission on Capital Punishment should be composed. In the past, there have been proposals for a capital punishment commission in Texas, but the proposed commissions were smaller and less representative of the diversity of Texas than the commission in Maryland, which had 23 members that did represent the diversity of Maryland and included members representing the general public as well as the religious community.
Here is an excerpt from the bill that created the Maryland Commission.
(C) THE COMMISSION CONSISTS OF THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS:
(1) TWO MEMBERS OF THE SENATE OF MARYLAND, APPOINTED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE AND REFLECTING THE BROAD DIVERSITY OF VIEWS ON CAPITAL PUNISHMENT;
(2) TWO MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF DELEGATES, APPOINTED BY THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE AND REFLECTING THE BROAD DIVERSITY OF VIEWS ON CAPITAL PUNISHMENT;
(3) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, OR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S DESIGNEE;
(4) ONE FORMER MEMBER OF THE JUDICIARY, APPOINTED BY THE CHIEF JUDGE OF THE COURT OF APPEALS;
(5) THE SECRETARY OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, OR THE SECRETARY’S DESIGNEE;
(6) THE STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER, OR THE STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER’S DESIGNEE;
(7) A STATE’S ATTORNEY, DESIGNATED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE MARYLAND STATE’S ATTORNEYS’ ASSOCIATION WHO HAS PROSECUTED A DEATH PENALTY
(8) THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS, APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNOR AND REFLECTING THE BROAD DIVERSITY OF VIEWS ON CAPITAL PUNISHMENT, AND THE RACIAL, ETHNIC, GENDER, AND GEOGRAPHIC DIVERSITY OF THE STATE:
(I) A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE MARYLAND CHIEFS OF POLICE ASSOCIATION;
(II) A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE MARYLAND STATE LODGE FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE;
(III) A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER IN A STATE PRISON;
(IV) A FORMER STATE PRISONER WHO HAS BEEN EXONERATED OF THE CRIME FOR WHICH THE INDIVIDUAL WAS INCARCERATED;
(V) THREE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY; AND
(VI) SIX REPRESENTATIVES OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC, TO INCLUDE AT LEAST THREE FAMILY MEMBERS OF A MURDER VICTIM.
(D) THE GOVERNOR, THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE OF MARYLAND, AND THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF DELEGATES JOINTLY SHALL APPOINT THE CHAIR OF THE COMMISSION.
(E) THE COMMISSION SHALL HOLD PUBLIC HEARINGS.