On November 12, the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment voted 13-7 to recommend to the legislature to repeal the death penalty in that state. The 23-member commission whose membership includes a police chief, a former death row inmate exonerated by DNA, religious leaders, three murder victims family members, legislators, and a county prosecutor, found that “the capital punishment system as it exists in Maryland doesn’t really work.” Five people have been executed in Maryland since 1978.
The commission also found:
- Racial and geographic disparities exist in how the death penalty is applied.
- Death penalty cases are more costly than non-death penalty cases and take a greater toll on survivors of murder victims.
- There is no persuasive evidence that risk of execution is a deterrent to crime, and the unavailability of DNA evidence in some cases opens the “the real possibility” of wrongfully convicting an innocent person.
The same realities exists in Tennessee’s death penalty system. The Tennessee Committee to Study the Administration of the Death Penalty has uncovered very similar evidence, including greater costs, geographic and racial disparities, and lack of DNA preservation. The question remains, “What will the Tennessee Committee recommend to the legislature in 2009?” And, “What will the new legislature do with this information?”
State after state continues to uncover the utter brokenness of the death penalty system, and I hope that Maryland will become the second state to abolish the death penalty in recent years, following New Jersey’s lead, demonstrating that abolition isn’t an aberration but is becoming a trend.
TCASK will keep you updated on the status of the death penalty in Maryland as the legislature considers the Commission’s findings.
Read more here.
In a stunning turn of events, it has been discovered that the star witness in the murder of Adriane Dickerson was incarcerated during the time he claimed to have witnessed the murder. The death sentence convictions of G’Dongalay Berry and Christopher Davis for two other murders was won largely due to the jury’s impression that they had also been responsible for Dickerson’s death.
“Carter told police he was at the scene of the Megamarket the day someone fired a bullet that struck the girl in the neck. He said he was in a different car but later changed his story, telling police he was riding in the back seat with Berry, Davis and two others. He said he didn’t know anyone was going to get shot.”
“The district attorney’s office did not question Carter’s credibility as a witness, Thurman said.”
Read more about this story by clicking HERE.
It is now apparent that the district attorney’s office also did not question whether Carter was actually present at the murder. “When a post-conviction attorney checked Juvenile Court records and found a document suggesting one of the witnesses was incarcerated the day the murder happened, the state was informed and began to investigate.” It is troubling that for such a high profile case the D.A.’s office would make such a significant mistake.
Eyewitness identification plays a major role in convictions–often times in death penalty cases without any physical evidence. It is critical that these eyewitness testimonies are accurate and from credible witnesses–not those who were incarcerated at the time and lying to protect others.
Our thoughts are with the Dickerson family. They thought they knew who was responsible for the death of their daughter. Now they do not know for sure and there is the possibility that Adriane’s killer is still out there.
See video here. Click on link and then scroll down and over to the caption “Murder Trial Witness Said Police Told Him to Lie.” Click the caption to see the interview.
William Glenn Rogers, a Tennessee death row inmate, has won a motion to test DNA evidence in the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Jackie Beard in 1996.
Rogers believes that the DNA evidence will exonerate him. “During his trial in 2000, DNA from semen stains found on the girl’s shorts were inconclusive. More advanced testing available today could clear his name.”
Read NewsChannel 5’s coverage by clicking HERE. Read the AP coverage by clicking HERE.
TCASK was represented at the Amnesty International Southern Regional Conference held in Memphis, TN, October 31-November 2. On Saturday afternoon Stacy and Katie co-presented a Death Penalty 101 seminar with Brian Evans of the Amnesty International USA Death Penalty Campaign. The presentation covered myths and facts about the death penalty, the moral arguments concerning the issue, and the death penalty as a human rights issue.
Katie led a role-play which encouraged the participants to use the facts learned during the seminar and apply them to mock conversations that may occur between people who stand on both ends of the death penalty spectrum.
Amnesty’s Death Penalty campaign works to educate the public about the human rights issues concerning the death penalty. If you would like to look further into the work of this group, visit their website: http://www.amnestyusa.org/death-penalty