The Baltimore Sun

Evidence condemns the death penalty

I object very strenuously to the title of Scott D. Shellenberger's column "Evidence supports death penalty in Md." (Commentary, Dec. 30).

He admits that the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment voted 13-9 for repeal of the death penalty. So obviously the majority of commission members believe the evidence calls for an end to executions.

Those of us who attended the commission's open hearings know that the evidence indicated that racism, classism, geographical disparities, etc., affect the application of the death penalty in Maryland. And a majority of the commissioners did not believe the death penalty could be fixed.

As an abolitionist and an organizer, I know that valuable time and resources should not be spent on trying to change the opinion of those who are never going to change.

But I know that eventually the death penalty will be repealed. It is a barbaric practice that tarnishes all involved - from the prosecutor to the jury members to the judge to the governor to the execution team. It is a practice most civilized states and countries long ago abolished.

The arguments made in the column are misleading at best. For example, I was in Annapolis when Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project testified before the commission. And Mr. Shellenberger failed to point out that Mr. Scheck's testimony indicated that even the latest technology does not rule out the possibility that an innocent person will be executed.

I will be in Annapolis lobbying members of the legislature this session and arguing that the death penalty must be repealed.

No one has the right to take another person's life.

Max Obuszewski, Baltimore

It's time to abolish state executions

As a member of the Maryland Bar Association, I welcome the report from the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment recommending the repeal of the death penalty. The commission's hearings revealed that the death penalty not only does not deter crime but also tends to drag out the suffering of victims' families.

It also risks taking innocent lives, as mistakes in death penalty cases cannot be reversed once an execution has taken place.

Another more crass, but practical, fact to consider is that implementing the death penalty has been found to be far more costly than using appropriate alternatives.

Maryland would be better off without the death penalty.

Olisa Aber, Columbia

Too quick to attack an abusive pastor

To those who would condemn Father Michael Salerno based on very scant information concerning his misconduct ("Ex-pastor of St. Leo's abused boy in '70s, parish told," Dec. 30), and with no knowledge of the remorse he may feel or of the good works he has performed in his life, I have one thing to say: "Let he who is without sin throw the first stone."

Bill Reiley, Baltimore

State is striving to help mothers

The editorial "Help for young mothers" (Dec. 22) highlights a critical health issue. But it should be noted that the O'Malley administration has expanded medical coverage and increased primary prevention services, providing Medicaid coverage to an additional 30,000 parents this year and allowing more women to be enrolled in health care coverage before a pregnancy.

All 24 of Maryland's local health departments are also now actively involved in enrolling women eligible for these services to ensure prenatal care is available as early as possible.

Many have private-public partnerships under way to ensure access to prenatal care for women who are not eligible for Medicaid.

In the last two years, the administration has also significantly increased funding for the Babies Born Healthy initiative.

This program, under way in Baltimore, Prince George's County and several other jurisdictions, supports services for women and strengthens the capacity of care providers to deal with high-risk pregnancies through tele-medicine consultations and a training partnership with our academic medical institutions.

Such projects focus on promoting women's wellness, improving the health of women before and between pregnancies and ensuring access to family planning.

John M. Colmers, Baltimore

The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Health Hygiene.

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