MD to Abolish the Death Penalty?

The Post

A high-profile panel appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley recommended last night abolishing Maryland’s death penalty, concluding that the state’s system of capital punishment is too costly and vulnerable to wrongful convictions and fails as a deterrent to crime to be sustainable.

From here, the report goes to the governor, and then to the legislature — which is a whole separate quicksand pit of committees and deliberation — before a bill abolishing the death penalty lands on the governor’s desk.

But it’s a step in the right direction. W00t!

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2 Responses to MD to Abolish the Death Penalty?

  1. Troublesome Frog says:

    This is a weird topic to me. I’m generally anti-death penalty for very practical reasons (doesn’t seem to make a difference in crime, it’s irreversible, it’s expensive, etc.), but I honestly can’t get myself worked up over the “It’s uncivilized!” argument. For example, if it turned out that we were actually very good at not convicting innocent people and it actually deterred crime, I wouldn’t have a problem with it at all.

    I suppose this puts me in a weird category among the generally liberal folks I tend to agree with. Torture (and even war crimes, to some extent) seems like a similar topic. Some people get worked up over the morality of it, whereas I just think it’s bad policy. If he’s really a bad guy and he really has useful information that will come out, and if we could do it without ever torturing an innocent person, and if it didn’t have nasty political ramifications, I don’t really see a moral issue with it.

    Likewise, the idea that war has rules seems totally insane at first glance. Isn’t war what you do when you can’t solve the problems within the framework of negotiations and rules? To me, the idea of having things that you’re not allowed to do in war is similar to the idea that you can fight back against a rapist as hard as you want, but no eye gouging or strikes to the groin, because that’s just messed up. Of course, practical considerations make war crimes treaties sensible and reasonable things to strive for. You’d better believe, though, that if I ran a small country that was invaded by an enemy I couldn’t defeat by conventional means, I’d OK busting out the poison gas and catapulting severed heads into enemy encampments.

    Does that make me a bad person?


  2. arensb says:

    Troublesome Frog:

    I’m mostly in the same boat as you are. Certainly some people deserve to die. The main moral argument, for me, is “We ought to be better than that”.

    At the same time, I’m glad of the practical counterarguments.

    But what really bothers me the most about the death penalty is how irrevocable it is. If you lock someone up for life and it later turns out they’re innocent, you can at least let them out and apologize. But if a person is executed by mistake, even that isn’t possible. So best to make damn sure the person is guilty. Which leads to endless appeals, which drives up the cost of death penalty cases.

    Likewise, the idea that war has rules seems totally insane at first glance.

    I think I look at it from the other side: war crimes are acts so bad that you don’t commit them even in a war, when you’re trying to kill as many of the enemy as you can.


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