The Maryland Senate has passed death penalty repeal, by a 27-20 vote, and the bill now moves over to the House with increased momentum. Excitement at this development is tempered by the fact that desperately needed funding for family members of murder victims was stripped from the bill in committee.
Families of murder victims face many hardships, beyond the shock and grief of the loss itself. Often the lost loved one was the family breadwinner. The costs of travel or missed work time to attend court hearings, as well as expenses for grief counseling and funeral arrangements can add up quickly, particularly for lower income families. They need, and deserve, our support.
The Governor and others have promised to put this funding into the budget that will be considered in March, but the hammering out of budgets is notoriously chaotic, so we will have to be vigilant. There are also no guarantees for death penalty abolition itself, as the vote in the Maryland House is likely to be close. More action is still needed.
But things are definitely looking up. Though separated in committee, both these measures may ultimately find their way to the Governor’s desk. And ending executions while at the same time providing tangible support for victims’ families will demonstrate that a better brand of justice is possible – a justice that, instead of fixating on cruel and inhumane punishments, respects the human rights and human dignity of all.