ANNAPOLIS – Madison Hobley, 42, on Illinois’ death row for 12 years before he was exonerated in January by the outgoing governor, cried after testifying before Maryland’s House Judiciary Committee Thursday.
Hobley was there to tell Maryland to end its ultimate sanction, or, at minimum, scrutinize it.
“They really need to study what is going on here,” Hobley said as his eyes welled with tears. “I know I might be dreaming, but I hope they would abolish the (death penalty), or at the very least issue a moratorium.”
“Today I am hurting . . . I hope Maryland doesn’t make the mistake of executing any innocent people,” he said. “People like me.”
Hobley, convicted in 1990 for the 1987 murder of his wife and 15-month-old son, described how it felt to be off death row.
“It’s like I regained my life. I feel like a human being again,” he said pausing deeply. “I thank God that I can go where I want to go and eat what I want to eat.”
Victims’ families, public defenders and prosecutors came to debate the seven bills dealing with the death penalty.
Crystal Miller’s message for lawmakers was: Don’t execute her brother, Vernon Evans.
“On paper my brother may appear to be a monster,” Miller said. “But he is my brother, my flesh and blood. The death penalty only creates more victims.”
In 1983, Evans came to a hotel in Pikesville to kill two intended federal witnesses. He killed one of his targets and the sister of the other.
It was a bill to impose a moratorium on the death penalty that generated the most debate, attracting 41 testimonials.
If passed, the bill would suspend the punishment for three years.
It would also establish the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment headed by Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. The commission would make recommendations for public policy so the state’s administration of the death penalty is free from racial disparity, jurisdictional disparity, social and economic disparity and assure that innocent people are not sentenced to death.
The moratorium bill was filed in response to the findings of a University of Maryland study, released in January, that the state’s use of the ultimate penalty showed racial and geographical bias.
“The empirical study before us does not make any recommendations,” said Delegate Salima S. Marriott, D-Baltimore. “What we have is evidence that the system is biased based on race and geography.”
“Passage of this legislation is critical to get rid of the disparities in the application,” she said.
One committee member wasn’t convinced a moratorium is necessary.
“I voted for the first moratorium because of the (university) study,” said Delegate Robert Zirkin, D-Baltimore County. “But why are we passing another moratorium . . . why are we going to study the study?”
Another member refused to acknowledge the racial disparities.
“According to the study, 74 percent of murders were committed by non-white defendants,” said Carmen Amedori, R-Carroll. “There is a movement here to say that there is a racial bias and there is not one in that report.”
Conducted over two-and-half years, the study examined records for nearly 6,000 homicide prosecutions where the death penalty might have been applied between 1978-1999. The study showed, when the race of both the victim and offender are examined together, blacks who kill whites are more likely to get a death sentence than whites who kill whites or blacks who kill blacks.