A Harford County lawmaker and his brother, the county’s state’s attorney, are calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty following last week’s tragic mass shooting at a granite company in Edgewood.
On Monday, state Sen. Bob Cassilly said at a press conference that Maryland needs to reintroduce capital punishment for the most heinous of murder cases.
“We have to remember that compassion and leniency toward the perpetrators, which our state has demonstrated, doesn’t satisfy our moral obligation for justice for the victims and for society,” the Harford County lawmaker said.
Three days earlier, 37-year-old Radee Prince showed up for work at Advanced Granite Solutions and allegedly shot five co-workers, three of them fatally. He then fled to Delaware, where authorities say he shot and injured one other person. He was arrested later that night and charged with attempted murder and other offenses in Delaware; he’s facing murder charges here in Maryland, though prosecutors say he’ll have to stand trial in Delaware first.
Maryland abolished the death penalty in 2013. However, Cassilly has argued the resulting maximum punishment for killers, life in prison, amounts to “leniency,” and it’s cases like those of Advanced Granite Solutions or the 2015 killings of two Harford County sheriff’s deputies that call for more.
“It’s outrageous that when someone kills and is eligible for life without parole, they in essence have a license to kill,” he said. “There’s gotta be a higher answer, and there’s gotta be a penalty that says, ‘look you’ve killed, now it can actually get a whole lot worse than this.’….we will hold your life over your head.”
Cassilly is now proposing that Maryland reintroduce the death penalty in a somewhat subversive form: a cocktail of heroin and fentanyl, the same drugs that are already claiming thousands of lives each year across the state.
His strategy seems far less scientifically based than the carefully constructed pharmaceutical cocktails used in other states, which are designed (and often fail) to prevent pain and suffering. However, Cassilly argues the painkiller method would trump any worries that it could undue suffering for the person on death row, since people seem to love using the extreme painkillers so many anyway.
Joseph Casilly, Harford County’s top prosecutor and also Bob’s brother, pointed out that it could even double as a political statement on the risks of opioid abuse.
“Make sure it’s our execution drug,” the county’s state’s attorney said. “That’s a point to be taken about how deadly that combination is.”
There are obvious pitfalls to this. For one, a fatal heroin overdose isn’t painless; opioid users can experience seizures, muscle spasms and oxygen depletion as they overdose, well before their heart stops beating. That wouldn’t exactly stand up to the Eighth Amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment clause.
There’s also the problem of innocent people getting sentenced to or, worse, put to death. The campaign that ended the death penalty in Maryland four years ago was driven in part by the story of Kirk Noble Bloodsworth, a former Marine who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in 1984. DNA evidence exonerated him nine years later, sparing him from the gas chamber.
But hey, why not let Cassilly make his case to to his 187 colleagues in the General Assembly? He said he plans to introduce his bill when the new legislative session begins Jan. 10, 2018.