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Local residents share thoughts on Md. death penalty

February 15, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Marlin Martin
by Caleb Calhoun/Moble Journalist

Marlin Martin of Smithsburg said that the death penalty in Maryland should “stay as it is” and rejected the argument that there is a risk of executing an innocent person.

“I think that does not happen often,” Martin, 71, said. “When capital punishment is practiced, that person no longer will have an opportunity to commit a crime, and I think that far outweighs the fact that someone innocent might be executed.”

Sheridan Webb of Hagerstown, however, said that the death penalty is “unfair” and that life in prison for “heinous crimes” should be enough to keep criminals from committing more crimes.

“Hopefully I would have faith in our prison systems that it’s harder to break out than one would think, and if they are a really bad offender I would hope they would be in a maximum security prison,” Webb, 20, said. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley referred to capital punishment as costly, racially biased, and ineffective during a Senate committee hearing Thursday. He testified in support of his bill to repeal the death penalty in front of the House and Senate judicial committees.

Among 12 people who spoke with The Herald-Mail on Friday about the bill, eight said they were against it, meaning they support the death penalty, and four said they were for it.

Raymond Kline of Hagerstown said he is against repealing it and agreed with Martin that the risk of killing somebody innocent is “a chance you take.” Kline, 65, also said that the cost of the death penalty should not be a factor.

“What about the expense of somebody sitting in jail for life?” he said. “You kill somebody you need to be killed. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

Ben Ros, 38, of Hagerstown, added that technology today makes it much less likely for an innocent person to get sentenced to death.

“It’s too easy to find evidence now because of DNA,” he said. “The death penalty is a cost but it’s worth it.”

George Brnilovich of Hagerstown said that he is against the repeal as long as extra steps are taken to prove a suspect guilty before that person is executed.

“I don’t think every circumstance calls for it, but if someone has killed multiple people, there’s no reason to keep them alive,” Brnilovich, 24, said. “If they know they’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and the punishment fits the crime, I’m for it.”

Due to laws passed by the state in 2009, capital punishment can only be considered in Maryland now if there is biological or DNA evidence, a videotaped confession or a videotape linking the defendant to a homicide, according to published reports. Maryland’s last execution was 2005.

Eric Shindledecker, 23, of Hagerstown, said that he supports the repeal based on the governor’s arguments about it not being cost effective.

“If it’s going to save the money, save the money,” he said. “Somebody who is going to kill 20 or 30 people deserves to die, but how many times has that happened in Maryland?”

Samantha Gardner of Hagerstown pointed to the cost of life in prison in her support for the death penalty along with new technology such as DNA evidence to keep innocent people from being convicted.

“Today, our technology is far more superior than it used to be,” Gardner, 22, said. “If a person is on death row, there is a reason behind it.”

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