Through the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, I have kept up on the news and participated in some small way in urging politicians in the state of Maryland to abolish the death penalty. Tomorrow, they are going to do it -- Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley will sign the law to repeal capital punishment in his state.
And while another bill in Delaware has stalled in a state House committee, thanks in part to several Democrats, tomorrow also represents an opportunity to speak out about it, to put some pressure on a few state representatives there who have it in their power to make the bill to repeal in Delaware go forward.
First, the news in Delaware: legislation has passed through the Senate, but is stuck in the House. Tabled, but not dead yet.
Rep. Darryl Scott, D-Dover, a bill sponsor and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, presented the bill to committee members. Scott said use of capital punishment puts the United States in the company of unlikely bedfellows. “China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan – their values are not our values,” he said. “Justice can be served without the killing of our citizens.”Delaware residents, religious leaders, and organizations like the NAACP have testified in favor of this bill to abolish the death penalty. The public defender pointed out the millions the state spends each year defending capital punishment cases, as the state may save some of this money if they abandon the death penalty. An exonerated death row inmate from Illinois testified about the real danger of executing innocent people.
On the other side, opponents of the death penalty repeal argued that it protects law enforcement, although a deterrent effect has yet to be demonstrated. And the local police put forth the simple argument of retribution.
Fred Calhoun, president of Delaware Fraternal Order of Police, said if police are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, criminals should pay the ultimate price.So in a Delaware House committee with three Republicans and eight Democrats, the vote stalled at 5-5 (can't tell who abstained). Many Republicans naturally oppose abolishing the death penalty; I have this argument regularly with the Republicans I know. It's the Democrats that disappoint me, so...let's name them!
Reps. Steve Smyk, R-Milton; Dave Wilson, R-Bridgeville; Jeffrey Spiegelman, R-Clayton; W. Charles Paradee, D-Dover; Rebecca Walker, D-Townsend; and John Mitchell, D-Wilmington, were opposed to allowing the full House to hear the bill, Peterson said.There is a purpose to this naming, though. Because tomorrow, Maryland will join the growing roster of states who have abolished capital punishment. They are replacing it with the sentence of life without the possibility of parole, or LWOP. And since this will garner attention from the media, it presents an opportunity to spread the word, not just about success in Maryland, but about Delaware.
As per the email that the NCADP sent out, Diane Rehm's show on NPR will spend time discussing the death penalty during the 10 o'clock hour, eastern daylight time. And the NCADP suggests calling or Tweeting the show during that time:
Call in or tweet comments to the Diane Rehm Show during the 10am EDT hour tomorrow (Thursday, May 2): 1-800-433-8850/@drshow.As might be expected, the Delaware Democrats may not be very active on Twitter, but I did find Rebecca Walker (@BeckyWalkerDE) on there. Of course, anyone from Delaware could easily reach them via phone or email using the information on the state's website. And while 10 AM eastern is pretty early for me...Diane Rehm's show won't even be on yet in Tucson...it's not too early to get the word out about some needed change in Delaware.
No, I don't particularly enjoy her show, as she tends to give conservatives the time they want if they're friends, and she rarely challenges the recitations of talking points masquerading as analysis or discussion. But as a national outlet for shining some light on the legislative process in Delaware, it's got potential.