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Lloyd Waters: Would McGuinn favor the death penalty?

April 07, 2013|By LLOYD WATERS

Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s guest column last week titled “Racially biased death penalty must be abolished” presented his opinion and several discussion points in support of abolishing the death penalty in the State of Maryland.

(The Maryland General Assembly approved a ban of the death penalty March 15).

Brown also shared a major point to all readers that Attorney General Doug Gansler does not support the abolishment of the death penalty. 

Sounds like a little politicking to me.

Even though the lieutenant governor made some interesting arguments, the death penalty is favored by many in Maryland and across the country as well.Perhaps we should seek some additional comments on the subject.

David McGuinn can’t offer his opinion from the grave, but if he could, I believe he would speak for all correctional officers.

As you may recall, in the evening of July 25, 2006, McGuinn was a young correctional officer reporting for his shift at the Maryland House of Correction.

There had been much violence at the prison in the months before that night, and as McGuinn made his security rounds, two inmates managed to get out of their cells and viciously stabbed the officer to death. The inmates allegedly involved in the assault were serving life sentences for murders.

What would be their penalty for committing yet another murder?

Although race is often described as problematic in death penalty sentences because of a disproportionate number of inmates confined to a death penalty status (80 percent of inmates on death row in Maryland are black), there still remains a significant problem.

Consider this.

If these two inmates are tried and convicted for McQuinn’s murder and there is no death penalty, they most likely will receive a life sentence, or the very same sentence they were serving before the the crime.

What then is the penalty for the murder of McQuinn? 

The disturbing answer is “absolutely nothing.” If one is already serving a life sentence, what penalty is another life sentence?  “Nothing.”

A murder with no penalty.

Does Brown actually believe the death penalty serves no purpose when one of those dedicated correctional officers who work “tirelessly to keep our state safe” (his words) is killed by already convicted murderers and their penalty amounts to “nothing?”

Does he feel the same about the ruthless slaying of a dedicated law enforcement officer?

Tom Clements, the director of the Colorado prison system, recently was shot and killed, allegedly by an ex-inmate.

Clements was a person who believed in redemption and attempted to change the criminal through treatment while promoting humane prison conditions.

Colorado maintains the death penalty and last executed an inmate in 1997 by lethal injection.

The discussions between those who support and oppose the death penalty have significant differences. There are some very strong emotions on both sides.

It would seem that some of those issues that Brown offers to support abolishing the death penalty in Maryland represent shortcomings of our judicial system. Perhaps another avenue for consideration might be to repair the very system that is broken.

I spent some 34 years walking the corridors of Maryland’s prisons. I shared Clements’ position on “redemption,” and thought I could change the behavior of those incarcerated.

However, when I examine the case of McGuinn, and the fact that those individuals accused of killing the officer had nothing really to lose within the prison environment, I have some difficulty in supporting the total abolishment of the death penalty.

I understand Brown’s arguments with regard to the shortcomings of death penalty sentences in Maryland, but what if there were absolute, irrefutable, convincing evidence to support charges of murdering a correctional officer or police officer in our state?

What then, Mr. Brown?

I think that answer should be fairly obvious. Too bad we can’t ask David McGuinn.

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes columns for The Herald-Mail.

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