Abolitionists gear up for a fight in Maryland

By: JeaNette Ravendhran

The state of Maryland has only executed four people since the Supreme Court stopped the death penalty in 1972. This small number of executions has earned Maryland the reputation that it's reluctant to kill -- but that is about to change.

Maryland is planning to execute four inmates early this spring. The possibility exists that all four could receive death warrants at the same time -- raising the prospect of multiple executions on the same day.

To make things worse, each of these cases fall into an all-too-familiar pattern when it comes to the use of the death penalty -- all of the men are convicted of killing white victims, and three of the four inmates are African American.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in Maryland, not a single prisoner has been executed for killing an African American victim. All four of the defendants now facing execution are accused of crimes committed in mostly white affluent Baltimore County.

In Maryland, 71 percent of the death row population is African American -- winning Maryland the distinction of having the most racially biased death row in the country. "What a depressing statistic for a state that likes to think of itself as racially enlightened," said Dwight Sullivan, managing attorney of the ACLU in Baltimore.

On June 8 of last year, Gov. Parris Glendening commuted the death sentence of Eugene Colvin-El to life without parole, admitting that he lacked "absolute certainty" as to Colvin-El's guilt. But Eugene's case is typical of many death row inmates. Now Glendening is under pressure to stop all executions until a two-year research study into the death penalty in Maryland is complete in 2002.

The death penalty isn't a solution, and it is political and full of bias. The Campaign to End the Death Penalty is working with other groups to make sure that Illinois isn't the only state with a moratorium on executions. Moratorium now, abolition next!