Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5, and Del. Jason Buckel, a Republican who represents Allegheny County, are primary sponsors on House Bill 887, which would make the death penalty an option when someone is convicted of first-degree murder of a police officer; a correctional officer or a first responder; or, in the case of a mass murder, of three of more people. The death penalty was repealed in Maryland in 2013.
Shoemaker said punishment is supposed to be a deterrent and rehabilitative, but those who kill law enforcement or are mass killers are “irredeemable.”
“I think that they should be slipped the juice,” Shoemaker said. “There are numerous safeguards that are in place to make sure the wrong person is not executed.”
With DNA, witnesses and technology, he added, there is barely a chance someone who is wrongfully convicted or accused would be sentenced to death.
“Given the fact that we’re seeing basically police officers walk around with targets on their back, something has to be done,” Shoemaker said.
Shoemaker said he knows of a lot of other lawmakers who want to sponsor the bill, and also said he has support from local leaders in Carroll. Both State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo and Sheriff Jim DeWees are in support.
“They’ve indicated that they’d both be willing to come down and testify at the bill hearing,” he said.
DeWees said “obviously I support it,” adding that he was never in support of repealing the death penalty in the first place. He said he believes the death penalty is a deterrent.
If someone is “brazen enough” to take a law enforcement officer’s life, he said, and is convicted, the state should be able to seek the death penalty.
“I appreciate Haven Shoemaker putting the bill in on behalf of law enforcement,” DeWees said.
DeLeonardo said the death penalty is called for when someone has killed a law enforcement officer or a number of people. When someone kills a police officer, he said “it really is an attack on law and order.”
There should be a clear line, he said, to save the most serious punishment for those most serious crimes. If someone is already serving a life sentence and kills a corrections officer, DeLeonardo said, the death penalty is appropriate.
“Giving them another life without parole is doing nothing,” he said.
The bill was introduced Feb. 5 and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. Carroll County Dels. Susan Krebs and April Rose, R-District 5, as well as Del. Kathy Afzali, a Republican who represents Carroll and Frederick counties in District 4, have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.
Wesley Eugene Baker was the last person executed in Maryland prior to the 2013 repeal of the death penalty. Baker was killed by lethal injection Dec. 5, 2005, after his 1992 conviction for killing a 49-year-old grandmother in the parking lot of Catonsville’s Westview Mall after a holdup in June 1991.