As of this writing, 33 states in the U.S. still retain the death penalty (and two more still have inmates on death row). There is also a Federal death penalty and a death penalty in the U.S. military. The kangaroo courts at Guantánamo can issue death sentences too.
Though we are definitely seeing a decline in support for the death penalty in the U.S., that’s still a lot of capital punishment. To truly and sustainably overcome this culture of casual killing we will need – and we are building – a powerful grass-roots movement.
That’s why a victory for abolition in a state like Maryland, if it happens, will be so important. Change – lasting change – in the United States, where human rights are often ignored or dismissed, is going to come from the ground up … from the states, and even more locally from faith groups, campuses and communities.
And that’s why people from all over Maryland, and beyond, are coming to Annapolis on Valentine’s Day, to demonstrate support for death penalty repeal at hearings in both the state House and Senate. The movement for death penalty repeal is growing stronger; the crowd that will gather on Valentine’s Day in Annapolis will be a visible expression of that strength.
Another manifestation of that strength is that across the country, in a state with almost nothing in common with Maryland except that it also begins with an “M”, legislators in Montana will also spend Valentine’s Day hearing a Republican-sponsored death penalty repeal bill.
This strength can propel Maryland and Montana into becoming the 18th and 19th states to abolish the death penalty. And that, in turn, will lay the foundation for further victories and the evolution of a culture that respects human rights and turns away from so much killing.