“Never Accepting Defeat:” Amnesty’s Death Penalty Repeal Campaign in Maryland

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New technologies and social media helped Andrea Hall and Kevin Scruggs spread their message and mobilize activists (Photo credit: Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images).

New technologies and social media helped Andrea Hall and Kevin Scruggs spread their message and mobilize activists (Photo credit: Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images).

By Andrea Hall and Kevin Scruggs – current Maryland State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinators (SDPACs)

This blog series tells the story of Amnesty International’s involvement in Maryland’s historic death penalty repeal campaign, featuring the memories and insights of volunteers and staff who played critical roles over more than three decades.

In 2010 and 2011, we were fortunate to land in Maryland’s established and well-organized death penalty repeal coalition, continuing the work that countless others began decades earlier.

When we took on the shared role of State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinators for Amnesty International, we knew that repeal was a realistic goal in the relative short term, and that we had skills and experience to give to this campaign.

It was immensely rewarding to see the system work. Each year, we would employ the same basic strategy: in the spring and summer, we would lay the groundwork for the legislative session. We attended fairs and concerts, knocked on doors, collected signatures, and phone-banked. We handed out flyers, spoke to student groups, wrote newsletters, and marched in rallies. We drove hundreds of miles to reach out to a diverse constituency.

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Building Relationships for Human Rights Impact: Amnesty’s Death Penalty Repeal Campaign in Maryland

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Mona was one of the attendees at the Maryland House of Delegates when the legislature voted 82-56 in favor of the death penalty repeal bill (Photo Credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images).

Mona was one of the attendees at the Maryland House of Delegates when the legislature voted 82-56 in favor of the death penalty repeal bill (Photo Credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images).

By Mona Cadena (AIUSA MARO Field Organizer and WRO Deputy Director, 1999-2009)

This blog series tells the story of Amnesty International’s involvement in Maryland’s historic death penalty repeal campaign, featuring the memories and insights of volunteers and staff who played critical roles over more than three decades.

I first started working against Maryland’s death penalty as a field organizer for Amnesty International USA’s Mid-Atlantic regional office. I was the AIUSA representative for the Maryland Citizens Against State Executions (MDCASE) coalition. At the time we were working on winning a moratorium on executions so the state would have an opportunity to study the impact of the death penalty and ask important questions: was it applied in a racist manner, geographically arbitrary, and/or too expensive?

Between 1999 and 2003, I worked with Amnesty International volunteers who organized around the state, educated the public and contacted their elected officials. I left the Mid-Atlantic for the West and in 2009 had the great pleasure to be the Amnesty International representative on the victorious New Mexico repeal campaign.

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