Maryland Stays Execution and Becomes Second State to Declare Death Penalty Moratorium; ACLU Applauds Governor's Courage

Affiliate: ACLU of Maryland
May 10, 2002 12:00 am

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Statement by Diann Rust-Tierney, Director, ACLU Capital Punishment Project FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WASHINGTON-The American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project applauds the leadership of Governor Parris Glendening of Maryland, who stayed the execution of Wesley Eugene Baker and announced a moratorium on all executions in the state pending the release later this year of a state study which examines racial biases in capital cases.

Today is a day to recognize the efforts of those working to right the wrongs of the death penalty process in the state of Maryland. Governor Glendening follows in the courageous footsteps of Governor George Ryan of Illinois, who in January 2000 declared a moratorium on all executions in his state.

There are numerous problems with our nation’s death penalty system. Socioeconomic inequities and racial bias are just a few. Death row systems having to release innocent persons sent there by a system plagued with errors underscores the need for a national moratorium. Last month Ray Krone became the 100th innocent person nationwide released from death row for a crime he did not commit.

Of the 13 persons awaiting execution on Maryland’s death row, nine are black. Earlier this year, the United State Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Thomas Miller-El in Texas, based on evidence that the Dallas County District Attorney’s office may have deliberately excluded African Americans during the jury selection process.

Texas is not an isolated case. It has been reported that the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office also utilizes racially discriminatory practices when selecting its juries in capital cases. Countless state and national studies point to the racial disparities on death row, with particularly troubling bias when it comes to the race of the victim.

By making the common-sense decision to impose a moratorium, Governor Glendening is moving his state and this country closer to accepting the all too real and all too frightening facts regarding the injustices and mistakes in our nation’s death penalty system. We encourage other governors and elected officials across this country to impose moratoriums in their states in order to better examine their own systems and to protect the civil rights of the wrongfully accused.

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