Maryland poised to be 18th state to ban death penalty
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — It's been eight years since Maryland executed a convicted killer, but that could be the last time if the General Assembly, as expected, gives final passage this week to a bill to abolish capital punishment.
Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, has been pushing for the change since his first year in office. Now the Democratic-controlled legislature seems poised to make Maryland the 18th state in the nation to do away with the death penalty.
A repeal bill has already been approved by the state Senate and it was expected to win final passage from the House of Delegates on Friday.
The House advanced the legislation this week after delegates rejected nearly 20 amendments, mostly from Republicans, aimed at keeping capital punishment for the most heinous crimes.
If passed, life without the possibility of parole would be the most severe sentence in the state.
Supporters of repeal argue that the death penalty is costly, error-prone, racially biased and a poor deterrent of crime. But opponents say it is a necessary tool to punish lawbreakers who commit the most egregious crimes.
Passage would mark a major victory for O'Malley, who has long pushed for banning the death penalty.
Maryland has five men on death row. The measure would not apply to them retroactively, but the legislation makes clear that the governor can commute their sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The state's last execution took place in 2005, during the administration of Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich. He resumed executions after a moratorium had been in place pending a 2003 University of Maryland study, which found significant racial and geographic disparity in how the death penalty was carried out.
Capital punishment was put on hold in Maryland after a December 2006 ruling by Maryland's highest court that the state's lethal injection protocols weren't properly approved by a legislative committee. The committee, whose co-chairs oppose capital punishment, has yet to sign off on protocols.
O'Malley, a Catholic, expressed support for repeal legislation in 2007, but it stalled in a Senate committee.
Maryland has a large Catholic population, and the church opposes the death penalty.
In 2008, lawmakers created a commission to study capital punishment after repeal efforts failed again. The panel recommended a ban later that year, citing racial and jurisdictional disparities in how the death penalty is applied.
In 2009, lawmakers tightened the law to reduce the chances of an innocent person being sent to death row by restricting capital punishment to murder cases with biological evidence such as DNA, videotaped evidence of a murder or a videotaped confession.
According to the Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services website, Maryland has only executed five inmates since 1976. There were three in the 1990s, and two when Ehrlich was governor.
In contrast, neighboring Virginia has executed 110 inmates since the U.S. Supreme Court restored capital punishment in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. However, Virginia's death row population has dwindled to eight from a peak of 57 in 1995, in part because fewer death sentences are being handed down in the state amid an increased acceptance of life without parole as a reasonable alternative.
The center said death sentences have declined by 75 percent and executions by 60 percent nationally since the 1990s.
If passed, Maryland would become the 18th state to ban the death penalty. Connecticut did so last year. Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York also have abolished it in recent years.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- For Steelers outside linebacker Jones, size is not an obstacle
- Pirates top Cardinals, 5-2, on Davis’ homer; Alvarez, McCutchen hurt
- Steelers cornerbacks Allen, Gay, Taylor have something to prove
- Steelers notebook: Team cuts 15 players, including LB So’oto, RB Hall
- Latrobe law firm’s secretary pleads guilty to income tax evasion
- Pittsburgh paramedics treat 38 people at Stage AE concert
- PSU notebook: Freshman cornerback Haley soars up depth chart
- Indiana County township ‘afraid for the water’ fights waste well
- Harmar police make 2 drug arrests as part of crackdown on crime
- 2 top technology officers leave UPMC
- Western Pennsylvania drivers at bottom of insurer’s safety rankings