Curran Calls for End to Executions

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. has called for Maryland to abolish its death penalty, noting systemic flaws and the possibility innocent people could be put to death.

Because of the system’s “fallibility,” Curran charges, capital punishment could come only at the “intolerable cost of executing, every so often, the wrong person.”

With the possibility of as many as seven death-row inmates being executed this year, Curran is calling for legislative action “at this critical juncture in the fractured history of the death penalty in Maryland.” At Curran’s urging, Maryland Senator Sharon Grosfeld, a Montgomery County Democrat, has introduced legislation to abolish capital punishment.

Curran noted that 102 people on death rows around the country have been exonerated since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

“Let me be absolutely clear—life without parole means death in prison. Yet there is one pivotal difference between death in prison and the death penalty. That is reversibility,” Curran said.

Curran also said there are “serious questions” about racial and geographic disparities in Maryland’s application of the death penalty.

Curran opposition to capital punishment has no legal bearing on the state’s position. The General Assembly must act, or a court ruling must be made, in order to abolish the state’s death penalty.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich has said he will not continue the death penalty moratorium imposed by his predecessor, former Gov. Parris Glendening, during a study of the issue. Instead, he said he will review of death-row pleas for clemency on a case-by-case basis.

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This story was published on February 10, 2003.