January 30, 2003
Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
CALLS FOR ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY
General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., announced today that he has called
for the abolition of the death penalty in an open letter to Governor
Robert Ehrlich, Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele and members of
the General Assembly. Curran noted the national rate of exonerations
in capital cases, recent public questioning of the way the death
penalty is administered in Maryland, as well as the existence of
life without parole in calling for an end to executions.
me be absolutely clear: life without parole means death in prison,"
Attorney General Curran said. "Yet there is one, pivotal difference
between death in prison and the death penalty. That is reversibility."
Currans letter, he noted that 102 people on death row have
been exonerated nationally since the Supreme Court reinstated capital
punishment in 1976, and he also described one horrifying case of
justice coming too late for a Texas man. Sunny Jacobs sat on death
row for five of her 17 years in prison for a murder she and her
common-law husband did not commit. Lawyers eventually uncovered
evidence which proved their innocence, but not in time to save Jesse
Tafero, who had been executed two years before.
also argued that, in addition to the inevitability of mistake, serious
questions about racial and geographic disparities in Marylands
application of the death penalty call into serious doubt the current
seven executions scheduled to take place in Maryland in the coming
months, Curran urged legislative action "at this critical juncture
in the fractured history of the death penalty in Maryland,"
and congratulated Senator Sharon Grosfeld on the bill she plans
to submit tomorrow echoing Currans call for abolition.
wrote of his decision to family members of victims of death row
inmates currently awaiting execution .
by a host of leaders from Marylands religious community, Curran
said that because of the systems "fallibility,"
capital punishment can come only at the "intolerable cost of
executing, every so often, the wrong person." Curran called
this risk "unworthy of us," and concluded that it "fails
to pass for justice in a civilized society."
General's remarks at press conference
Attorney General's open letter
to Governor, General Assembly