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Maryland’s Death Penalty: Some Murders to Give

–Richard E. Vatz

In basketball having “a foul to give” means that you may foul without penalty for competitive purposes.

We ought to have the expression “a murder to give,” meaning that some people in some states are allowed penalty-free — or several penalty-free — murders. The problem is that it is hard to imagine a justification for a state’s having “murder to give.”

That is the utterly indefensible and contemptible situation now existing in the state of Maryland, virtually unpublicized due in part to the lack of major print media outrage.

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Last year in Maryland’s General Assembly, as I wrote in Red Maryland nearly 10 months ago under the title “The Maryland General Assembly’s Restriction of the Death Penalty: the Prospect of Blood on Its Hands,” Governor Martin O’Malley irresponsibly tried to repeal the death penalty, on de facto permanent hiatus anyway. Instead, the General Assembly restricted death penalty usage to only those killings wherein there is DNA evidence, a video recording of the crime, or a videotaped confession. This is the most restrictive set of evidentiary criteria in the country of any state that nominally retains the death penalty. (In that article last year some of the standard sophistry used against the death penalty is addressed as well.)

According to The Baltimore Sun, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller wants to expand the evidence eligible to be used to invoke the death penalty to include fingerprints and still-photographic evidence.

Would this be better?


Would it solve the problem of, as I argued last year, “incarcerated accused felons’ contracting with third parties to kill witnesses and convicts’ ordering killings or threats by cohorts?”


Would it solve the problem of Maryland’s lack of will to protect the state’s citizens from its worst miscreants and use the death penalty for utterly heinous crimes such as the murder of 11 year-old Sarah Haley Foxwell?


As my father, a lawyer, used to say with bitter sarcasm, “I certainly hope they can rehabilitate the murderer.”

There are always such examples extant in the state of Maryland.

The Maryland General Assembly wants to make less outrageous the restricted use of evidence required for seeking the death penalty. That is a distinction without a difference if the death penalty is never used.

Herein a new state slogan: “Maryland: The State with Murders to Give.”

Professor Vatz teaches Persuasion at Towson University

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