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February 22, 2013

Maryland legislature moves one step closer to repealing state's death penalty

As reported in this Baltimore Sun article, the Maryland "General Assembly took an important step toward repealing Maryland's death penalty Thursday night when a key committee, for the first time in decades, approved a bill to end capital punishment."  Here is more on this development and Maryland's textured modern capital punishment story:

The Senate Judicial Proceedings committee voted 6-5 to send Gov. Martin O'Malley's death penalty bill to the Senate floor, with Sen. Robert A. Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat, dropping his long-held opposition to repeal of capital punishment and providing the decisive vote....

The bill repealing the death penalty is expected to go before the full Senate next week. Advocates say they have the votes there and in the House of Delegates to pass it, and they welcomed Thursday's action by a committee that has been seen as an obstacle to their position.

"I'm elated that the committee has come to a place where they recognize it's time to have this vote on the floor," said Jane Henderson, executive director of Citizens Against State Executions.  Henderson said the NAACP's push for repeal in Maryland was "instrumental" in changing the dynamic this year.

With Zirkin's vote, she said, repeal advocates count at least 26 Senate votes for the bill β€” two more than needed.  Henderson said she's confident the Senate would muster the 29 votes needed to end a filibuster if one is attempted.

Before casting his vote, Zirkin told the committee he would probably never be comfortable with his decision no matter which way he came down.  He said he was torn between his emotional response toward brutal murderers and the "legal and practical" arguments that the death penalty system doesn't work.  "As heinous and awful as these individuals are, I think it's time for our state not to be involved in the apparatus of executions," he said....

The Judicial Proceedings vote for repeal was the first for that committee since 1969, when the measure was defeated on the Senate floor, according to the Assembly's library staff. The panel temporarily blocked repeal in 2009, but the measure was brought to the floor in a rarely used parliamentary maneuver.  The bill was amended on the floor that year to retain the death penalty but to allow it only in cases where the prosecution could meet one of the highest evidentiary standards in the country.

Five men, all convicted murderers, remain on death row in Maryland for killings that go back as far as 1983.  The state has not executed a prisoner since 2005.  The Maryland Court of Appeals imposed a de facto moratorium in 2006 when it threw out the rules under which executions are carried out.  Those regulations have not been replaced amid complaints from death penalty supporters that the O'Malley administration has been dragging its feet....

On the death penalty, [a recent] poll found that Marylanders are closely divided β€” with 48 percent opposing repeal and 42 percent favoring it.  Other polls have found that when voters are asked whether life without parole would be an acceptable alternative, a majority say yes.

Death penalty repeal supporters have said they were determined to bring a "clean" bill to the Senate floor β€” that is, without any amendments creating exceptions for certain types of murders....

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has said he expects that if the General Assembly approves a repeal law, opponents will gather enough signatures to petition the measure to a vote in the November 2014 election.  He said nothing should be included in the bill that could keep the issue from the voters.

February 22, 2013 at 08:16 AM | Permalink

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Comments

If MD doesnt have the guts to CARRY out the DP, like all good liberal states...then they should farm out the job to states like Texas, OK, and Ohio who actually have proven protocols and a good supply of drugs. . Its time for every PRO-DP state to pass a law allowing their DP inamets to be executed in another DP qualified State...that way we can have only a handful of DP protocols and fewer states seeking the sought after hard to find drugs. VA and TX should accept other states DP killers and execute them...this will save the other states MONEY in litigation and in protocols. Why hasnt this happened to date? Stop the radical anti-dp cowards. States already allow other states to house their prisoners. And the Federal govt already moves federal prisoners to Indiana for execution. So why cant states do it? Get a backbone and get going. Stop these frivilous lawsuits.

Posted by: deano | Feb 22, 2013 8:30:56 AM

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