I almost didn’t notice that it was new year’s eve today. Part of it is that I just don’t like the day. I never do anything for it. Under most circumstances, I won’t even stay up for it. But now I normally do because that’s when I do my birthday posts. Really: the new year has absolutely no relevance to anything. It is an entirely arbitrary dividing line between years. But whatever. I do have a bit of good news on this new year’s eve.
Maryland had the death penalty all the back to when it was a colony — in 1638, they hanged two men for piracy. Since that time, they’ve killed 312 people. Now that may sound like a lot, but actually, in that almost four centuries, the state has managed to kill off many fewer than Texas has killed since people started dancing in the street in 1976 because the Supreme Court allowed them to start legally killing people again. (Texas has killed 508 people in the last four decades.)
But last year, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed a law abolishing the the death penalty. As Huffington Post reported, O’Malley argued that “it wasn’t a deterrent for criminals, could end up being applied to innocent people, and was far more costly to the state than other punishments.” You know: the holy trinity — the reasons that all people would be against the death penalty if they approached the subject with their higher brains. But instead, most people approach it with their lowest brain: they just want to “get” the bad guys.
Let’s go over that list. First, people don’t kill as rational acts. They don’t think, “Now that I only have to spend the rest of my life in prison, I’m going to kill my wife!” People murder for two reasons: they either think they won’t get caught or they aren’t thinking at all. There is no evidence whatsoever that the death penalty reduces the homicide rate.
Second, innocent people get put to death all the time. If the death penalty really was effective at stopping murders from happening, maybe one could argue that innocent people being put to death was an acceptable price to pay. But since we can’t, we are killing these innocent people for no reason whatsoever. But hey, I guess as long as it isn’t happening to you or one of your loved ones, it doesn’t matter. And after all, you do get something from the death penalty: the great feeling that you are “getting” the bad guys.
Third, it is a hell of a lot more expensive to kill a murderer than to just let him rot in jail the rest of his life. It is this argument that gets the most bizarre response from death penalty advocates. Their response is always the same, “But it shouldn’t cost more!” According to them, after a “guilty” verdict, the judge should just pull out a gun and shoot the defendant in the the head. The fact that dozens of people have been proven innocent decades after conviction is just ignored. Nothing can get in the way of the wonderful feeling people get from legally murdering the bad guys.
In getting rid of the death penalty, Maryland had a bit of a problem. They had four people still sitting on death row. The state could still kill them because they were grandfathered in, so to speak — or so some claimed. So as his final act of governor, O’Malley commute their sentences to life without the possibility of parole. That is about the best news that you are going to get from me this year. And it is pretty good news too. I wonder when my home “liberal” state of California will ever outlaw this barbaric practice.