To Implement Justice – or Not
A recent conversation on the radio piqued my interest. A regular Tentacle columnist and our 3-B delegate to the General Assembly, Rick Weldon, talked about the decision facing Gov. Martin O’Malley on the death penalty.
Delegate Weldon noted that Governor O’Malley has been and continues to be opposed to the death penalty. He also noted that Governor O’Malley has created a Commission on Capital Punishment in which a preponderance of the appointments were made via the governor’s hand.
This basically means the decisions of this commission will follow closely, (if not precisely) along the existing views of the governor. In short, one has to wonder if the fix is in about the decision on this critical issue.
Let’s explore a short history of how this decision was placed on this governor. “In 2006, the Maryland Court of Appeals found that the state had not properly developed protocols for administering lethal injections and instructed Maryland to do so.”
Since the time of that decision “the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that lethal injection does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.” Governor O’Malley “refrained from issuing new rules, saying that he wanted to see the outcome of the Supreme Court case.”
After this Supreme Court decision, the governor “directed state Public Safety and Correctional Secretary Gary D. Maynard to begin reviewing protocols for how the state administers lethal injections.” *
“The Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment was created by an act of the Maryland General Assembly in the 2008 legislative session. The Commission’s membership is comprised of 13 gubernatorial appointees and 9 non-gubernatorial appointees…” **
One will note that approximately 60% of this commission, including the new chairman, (Benjamin Civiletti, former U.S. Attorney General under President Carter) were appointed by Governor O’Malley.
It should be noted that none of the appointments to this commission are from Western Maryland which employs 1,700 people at the three nearby state prisons. *** Once again, one has to wonder if the fix is in.
A couple of arguments made against the death penalty include the sixth commandment and the finality of the decision. In Exodus 20:13, “Thou Shalt Not Kill” is often used as an argument against this punishment. This is based upon a faulty understanding of the Hebrew.
“The word there is rāsah, and since it implies premeditated killing, the commandment is better translated: “Do not murder,” as most modern versions have it.” ****
Hence, the argument that the Holy Bible contradicts the implementation of such a judicial determination falls short. Aspects such as the “cities of refuge” (refer Numbers) also refute using the Holy Bible as a source to dispute the legitimacy of the death penalty – these cities were to ensure proper judicial processes.
The other common argument is the finality of the decision. This is the most compelling argument. If the person receiving such a judgment is innocent, there is no means to overturn this most final of actions. This point is tremendously important and can never be disregarded!
But, there is another aspect that is often left out of the conversation. What of those in prison who shall never get out? They have little or nothing left to inhibit them from murdering another person. If they were to murder an employee of the prison in which they now reside, the repercussions are very limited indeed. In short, there is very little deterrent to those who have committed such heinous crimes as to be incarcerated for life.
This brings us full circle. We have noted that no one from Western Maryland is on the Commission on Capital Punishment, yet many of the people in that area will be directly affected. So much for a diverse selection of individuals.
As the well respected delegate from District 3B noted: “I may not be a math major, but when 13 out of 22 appointments are made by the governor, it is very likely his stamp will be on the decision.”
I would add to that, it sure does look like the fix is in…
* Gazette.Net May 23, 2008: Governor: New rules on death penalty, by Sean R. Sedam
** Office of the Governor – Martin O’Malley: Commission Tasked with Studying Death Penalty in Maryland ANNAPOLIS, MD (July 10, 2008)
*** Herald-Mail.com July 12, 2008 Thumbs up, thumbs down
**** Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr. Thomas Nelson Publishers, p. 128.