The Race To Execute In Maryland

By: Mike Stark

On May 9, 2002, Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening halted executions in Maryland, citing concerns over racism on death row. This was a dramatic reversal for the governor who oversaw the executions of two poor, Black men: Flint Gregory Hunt in 1997 and Tyrone X Gilliam in 1998.

Glendening declared that executions would not resume until a comprehensive study of Maryland’s death row was complete, and the General Assembly had a chance to review the study’s findings. However, anyone who knows anything about Maryland’s death penalty has to admit that Maryland’s death penalty is racist to the core. Historically, since Maryland started keeping track of executions in 1923, Blacks have accounted for 77 percent of all executions. Also, Blacks facing the death penalty tend to be younger than whites. The youngest man executed in Maryland was a young Black man, Leonard Shockley, who was convicted in 1959 for a crime that he committed when he was 16 years old. Shockley remains the youngest person executed in the United States since then.

Over the past 10 years, Maryland has repeatedly had the sorry distinction of having the highest percentage of Blacks on death row of any state. Since reinstatement of the death penalty in Maryland in 1978, two out of three people executed in Maryland have been Black. All three were accused of killing whites. Each year in Maryland, Blacks account for about 80 percent of murder victims, yet 100 percent (13 out of 13) of those currently on death row are accused of killing whites. Also, Black-on-white crime accounts for less than 5 percents of murders in Maryland, yet 62 percent (eight out of 13) on death row are Blacks accused of killing whites.

These facts all coincide with numerous national studies that have found the death penalty to be racist. The facts are in: Maryland’s death penalty is too broken to fix.