Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Law Day USA

Tomorrow morning, Governor O'Malley is finally going to sign the bill abolishing the death penalty in Maryland.  It's about time.  I mean, the guy pushed and pushed for the law, finally got it enacted, and now he's waited more than a month to sign the thing.  (OK, I know absolutely nothing about Maryland's legislative procedure - maybe he was required to wait this long, but I doubt it.) 

It's prospective only, which means the bill doesn't actually take anyone off Maryland's death row who's currently there, though O'Malley has the authority to commute all their sentences.  Abolition laws in New Mexico and Connecticut were also prospective only.  Last week, the Connecticut Supreme Court heard oral argument on whether the law must also apply to the 11 men on death row there at the time the law was enacted.  You can watch the argument here.

Anyway, Maryland will end it, and thereby become the sixth state in six years to abolish the death penalty.  The others are New York, New Jersey, New Mexico (the fourth new, New Hampshire, has come close but hasn't made it), Illinois, and Connecticut.  And it's at least possible that Delaware will join that crowd this year.  Hell, they're actually going to have a hearing in the Texas House on an abolition bill.  It won't go anywhere, of course, but this is the fourth time the bill's been introduced and the first time it's gotten this far.

Of course, we're still killin' folks.  Through the end of April there have been 9 executions around the country this year (4 of them in Texas).  And Florida just passed a bill that, if the governor signs it, would put executions on a super-fast track.

In that spirit, and today, which is Law Day USA (so named by presidential proclamation in 1958 and congressional action in 1961 in response to May Day celebrations by godless communists and their ilk), the State of Ohio has this morning executed Steven Smith.  Earlier this morning, our state Public Defender, Tim Young, put out this statement.
Today Ohio will execute Steven Smith. And after the state kills Mr. Smith there will be “no winners here tonight”. This is the title of a 2009 book by Andrew Welsh-Huggins that examines the death penalty in Ohio. The title says all that needs to be said. Ohio will not be a better place tonight for Steven Smith’s execution. Ohio will have not reduced crime, murder rates will not go down, and Ohio will have one more death rather than fewer. And even the victim’s family, who want closure, will still grieve.

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