Maryland’s death penalty repeal bill has now been signed into law. Governor Martin O’Malley today made it official, but there is still work to do. There are still 32 states with capital punishment laws on the books, and there is the federal and military death penalty.
But while the U.S. will not be joining the ranks of abolitionist countries any time soon, the trend is certainly in the right direction, and more individual states will be repealing the death penalty in the near future, perhaps maybe even later this year.
The death penalty has gone from a third-rail political issue to one that is openly debated and hotly contested. As DNA technology has exposed the shortcomings of our judicial system, the public has become increasingly uncomfortable with the irreversible punishment of execution. Five Governors have now signed repeal bills since December 2007, and others, from states like Arkansas, Oregon, New Hampshire and Virginia, have publicly expressed a willingness to do so.
This gradual but profound change is the result of years, even decades, of tireless work by activists and advocates, with Amnesty International and with other groups, to expose the practical and moral failings inherent in capital punishment. Recent death penalty abolition successes have been achieved and sustained by the foundation of a bona fide movement.
One of the greatest of all Marylanders, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, said in his dissent from the Court’s 1976 decision to re-allow capital punishment in the U.S.:
“People who were fully informed as to the purposes of the death penalty and its liabilities would find the penalty shocking, unjust, and unacceptable.”
Amnesty International is proud to be a partner in this movement to fully inform the people about our “shocking, unjust, and unacceptable” death penalty, and we’ll keep doing it until the United States joins the majority of the world’s countries and abandons capital punishment once and for all.