2 May 2013. Today is a special Thursday for Maryland, for the United States and for the world. Today at 10:30 a.m. local time (18.30 in Italy), Governor O’Malley will sign into law SB276, which abolishes the death penalty in Maryland.
Maryland becomes the sixth U.S. state since 2007 to exclude the death penalty from its laws, following similar measures in New Jersey, New Mexico, New York state, Illinois, and Connecticut. This movement brings to 18 the number of U.S. states that have opted for a system of justice that respects life in every circumstance.
For years, the Community of Sant’Egidio has worked alongside American abolitionists and, with the City of Rome, will celebrate this great victory by lighting up the Colosseum in a special way.
This is a great victory that has progressively won the support of a significant majority of Maryland citizens. Several attempts to pass a law abolishing capital punishment failed by just a few votes. Following the approval by the Senate and the House last March -- with a final vote in the House of 82 to 56 -- the official signing of the law is part of an important season for efforts to abolish the death penalty throughout the United States. Gov. O’Malley has long been a supporter of the proposal and has said the resources saved thanks to the abolition of capital punishment will be used to help the families of murder victims. This is unlike what was contemplated in the proposal for a referendum in California to ban capital punishment; the measure would have devoted the justice system’s savings to police and other public safety measures.
The Maryland law was supported by several associations of victims’ families and by the entire Catholic Church. Baltimore Archbishop William Lori and Auxiliary Bishop Denis J.Madden testified in hearings against capital punishment and were part of the special commission set up before the legislature began working to dialogue with the public and lawmakers. Many political and religious leaders joined them in the work.
Kirk Bloodsworth and Shuja Graham, who were freed from death row after their innocence was recognized, and Vicki Schieber, a Maryland citizen whose daughter was brutally murdered in Philadelphia in 1988, all gave moving testimonies about their opposition to capital punishment so as not to increase the number of innocent victims and to move away from an erroneous sense of justice as vengeance and compensation for the victims’ families. “Do not kill again in our name,” “The death penalty is a failure; it only adds death to death and should be abolished,” they said.
On the occasion of the governor’s signing the new law, the Archdiocese of Baltimore has announced it will illuminate in a special way the outside and the inside of the Baltimore cathedral, the Basilica of the Shrine of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which has served as the cathedral since 1821 and is the oldest cathedral in the United States. The signing of the law is a victory for life, strongly supported by the U.S. Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which will symbolically become a member of the Cities for Life movement.