Sarah Craft, EJUSA Campaign Strategist
It risks executing an innocent person. It diverts precious government resources from proven crime-prevention programs. It puts victims’ families through years of extra trials and agony. It disproportionately affects the poor and people of color.
As if we needed another reason to support death penalty repeal, now it’s the cool thing to do. Everybody’s doing it!
In the last few years, five states have gotten rid of the death penalty – New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, and Connecticut – and a sixth just joined the club. On May 2nd, Governor Martin O’Malley signed repeal legislation into law, making Maryland the 18th state in the union (plus the District of Columbia) to abolish the death penalty.
Even more exciting is the recent failure of death penalty proponents to gather enough signatures to put a referendum on the ballot this November. Marylanders have spoken, and their message is clear: They simply aren’t interested in maintaining a failed public policy.
Maryland lawmakers spent over a decade on futile attempts to make the death penalty work. They instituted a moratorium, did two studies, and made extensive reforms to the death penalty law. But they realized the death penalty was broken beyond repair and just had to go.
In 2013, 17 states considered bills to repeal the death penalty. Large scale hearings took place in states as diverse as Delaware, Colorado, Montana, Nebraska and Oregon, as well as here in Washington. Montana’s bill had primary sponsorship from Republicans, and Delaware narrowly passed its repeal bill through the State Senate.
In Nebraska, Senators in the Unicameral Legislature passed a repeal bill through the Judiciary committee by a vote of 7-0, followed by almost two full days of debate on the floor. When repeal opponents saw that there was majority support for ending the death penalty, they mounted a filibuster, which requires a super majority (33 votes) to overcome. Though repeal sup- porters only got 28 votes for cloture, the prevailing sentiment is that a majority of Senators support re- peal and that the death penalty will soon be history in Nebraska.
It’s encouraging to know we have allies around the country doing the same work as we are here in Washington – and winning! We look forward to joining them on the road to victory as well.
A previous version of this article also appeared on the blog of Safe and Just Alternatives. Be sure to check out the blog at www.sjawa.org/blog