Because of the system's "fallibility," he said, capital punishment could come only at the "intolerable cost of executing, every so often, the wrong person." He said 102 people on death rows around the country have been exonerated since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to reinstate capital punishment in 1976.
Currant, a Democrat, outlined his views in a letter sent Wednesday to Gov. Robert Ehrlich and other state leaders. He has been a consistent opponent of the death penalty and argued it does not deter crime.
Ehrlich, a Republican, has said he will not continue a moratorium on the death penalty imposed by Democratic former Gov. Parris Glendening, but will conduct a case-by-case review of death-row pleas for clemency that cross his desk.
A recent study by a professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, found that race and jurisdiction play significant roles in whether a criminal is sentenced to death in Maryland. Black defendants who kill white victims are statistically more likely to be charged with a capital offense, the study concluded.
Messages left at Ehrlich's press office were not immediately returned.
Lawmakers on both sides of the issue agreed Curran's opinion carries weight, even if it does not directly influence the status of the death penalty. "He is highly respected," said Sen. Brian Frosh, the Democratic chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee. "The guy's got a ton of experience."
Frosh said he believes a bill to abolish the death penalty would have a chance of getting out of his committee, but he doesn't know what would happen on the floor of the Senate.