Joseph Tydings has a long history with the death penalty. He is a former United States Attorney for Maryland, United States Senator for Maryland, member of the Judiciary Committee of the Senate, prosecutor of capital cases and counsel to a capital defendant who was executed in Virginia. In his recent commentary in The Baltimore Sun, “No Fatal Mistakes,” focusing on the hearings of the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, Sen. Tydings notes his “deep concerns about the failures in our criminal justice system in capital cases.”
Sen. Tydings is profoundly concerned about the risk of executing an innocent person. And he believes he speaks from personal experience. He used to represent Walter Correll, who was executed in 1996 for a crime that Sen. Tydings still believes he didn’t commit. (Correll was also mentally retarded and, six years too late for him, in 2002 the United States Supreme Court declared the death penalty a disproportionate penalty for those living with mental retardation.)
Sen. Tydings is also concerned about the failure of death penalty states such as Maryland to provide defendants with competent counsel and a fair trial as mandated by the United States Constitution. And, again, he has good reason to be concerned: each year for the last 36 years an average of three demonstrably innocent persons has been condemned to death in the United States.
Sen. Tydings concludes his remarkable commentary: “The penalty for conviction in capital cases should be changed to life imprisonment without the possibilityof parole until we are willing or able to provide the resources to stop these frightfully tragic miscarriages of justice.”