In Maryland governor’s race, Brown highlights difference with Gansler over death penalty


Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown. (Photo by Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post)

Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown on Thursday knocked Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, a Democratic rival for governor, for his past support of the death penalty during an appearance before a NAACP-sponsored candidates forum in Baltimore.

Brown told the audience that he had “stood with” Benjamin T. Jealous, the then-president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, when he came to Maryland last year to testify in favor of legislation repealing capital punishment.

“I stood with the NAACP and Ben Jealous when we repealed the death penalty in Maryland,” Brown said. “The attorney general supports the death penalty. … The attorney general says it’s a wonderful tool.”

Brown, who would be Maryland’s first African-American governor if elected, cited “racial bias in the system” as one reason capital punishment needed to be repealed.

Brown, Gansler and Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery), a third candidate for governor, appeared separately at Thursday night’s forum, sponsored by the Baltimore branch of the NAACP.

Gansler had been on record for years as a supporter of the death penalty prior to the passage last year of legislation repealing it, which was sponsored by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).

When asked about his position at Thursday night’s forum, Gansler said: “My position is where everybody’s position is: We don’t have it. We used to have it. The General Assembly overturned it, and the people of Maryland have said they don’t want it. So, that’s my position on the death penalty.”

Gansler also noted that while the death penalty was on the books during his tenure as state’s attorney in Montgomery County, he never sought it.

During a radio interview last year, as lawmakers were debating O’Malley’s repeal legislation, Gansler reaffirmed his support for capital punishment under certain conditions.

“I think there are certain criminals who commit certain crimes, that they forfeit their right to live on the planet,” he told host Kojo Nnamdi on “The Politics Hour” on WAMU 88.5 FM. Gansler added that it was crucial that “we know for sure beyond any reasonable doubt that they are, in fact, the people that committed the crime.”

During the same interview, Gansler said that the death penalty was “a wonderful tool” for prosecutors because it could give them leverage to secure plea deals of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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