NAACP President Ben Jealous said Maryland's historic place in the civil rights movement -- the state is the birthplace of Thurgood Marshall and Frederick Douglass, among others -- makes it an appropriate symbolic and practical place to begin anew the group's effort to ban capital punishment in America.
"There's a special debt of honor to get this done in Maryland for the NAACP," Jealous told The Baltimore Sun Wednesday.
The civil rights group opposes the death penalty for various reasons, including that it is disproportionately applied to blacks. Jealous hasn't said how much the group plans to spend on the effort, but said a robust constituent outreach will be undertaken, urging supporters to lobby lawmakers to repeal the punishment.
Supporters cheered the NCAAP's involvement, but some remained skeptical it would do any good. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat who opposes the death penalty, hasn't said whether he'll put the full weight of his office behind another repeal attempt after a 2009 effort that failed to wipe it off the books, but narrowed the circumstances for which the death penalty can be sought.
Additionally, repeal supporters acknowledge much of the urgency has been removed since a 2006 court ruling that essentially prohibits the state from using its lethal injection procedure, meaning the state has no practical way to execute any of the five convicted killers presently on death row.