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March 6, 2013

After state senate vote, Maryland appears poised to repeal its (already dormant) death penalty

As reported in this extended Washting Post article, earier today the "Maryland Senate voted 27 to 20 to repeal the state’s death penalty Wednesday after four days of heated and emotional debate, putting Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on the brink of a long-sought legislative victory." Here are more details and context:

Supporters of the legislation argued that capital punishment is not an effective deterrent, is costly and creates the risk of executing innocent people.... Opponents countered that the death penalty can be an important law-enforcement tool and should be kept on the books for heinous cases, several of which were recounted in graphic detail on the Senate floor....

The bill moves next to the House of Delegates, where repeal advocates say they are confident they have the votes. The Senate had long been viewed as the tallest hurdle for the legislation.   O’Malley’s repeal bill was introduced this session with 67 co-sponsors in the House, leaving supporters just four delegates to sway to get a majority. Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg (D-Baltimore), a champion of the legislation, said he is confident his side has the votes to prevail in coming weeks.

Maryland voters could have the final say on the issue, however.  If the bill passes the House, opponents have vowed to make use of a provision in the state Constitution that allows citizens to petition recently passed laws to the ballot, as happened with same-sex marriage last year.  The outcome of a death penalty referendum would be far from certain.

A Washington Post poll released last week showed that a majority of Marylanders want to keep the death penalty on the books despite widespread skepticism across the state about whether capital punishment is a deterrent to murder or is applied fairly.

O’Malley’s bill would replace death sentences with life in prison without the possibility of parole. It would not affect the five inmates currently on death row in Maryland, leaving it to the governor to determine whether to commute their sentences....

Maryland would become the 18th state to abolish the death penalty, and the sixth in six years, reflecting new momentum for repeal efforts nationally. The NAACP has put a priority on the issue and is focused heavily on Maryland this year.

Maryland has has not carried out an execution since 2005, when O’Malley’s Republican predecessor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., was in office.  The state has had an effective moratorium on capital punishment since December 2006, the month before O’Malley took office, when Maryland’s highest court ruled that regulations on lethal injection had not been properly adopted.

The O’Malley administration has yet to implement new regulations, and the shortage of a drug prescribed in Maryland for executions could complicate the efforts of any future governor to resume executions.  Some opponents of the repeal harshly criticized O’Malley for failing to move forward during the past several years. “It’s hard to say something doesn’t work if you don’t use it,” Colburn argued.

Two Republicans joined 25 Democrats in the chamber in voting for the repeal on Wednesday. The measure was opposed by 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

Debate on the measure was dominated by efforts to create exceptions to the repeal. Bill supporters fended off more than a dozen amendments, including provisions that would have allowed executions to continue for people who kill law-enforcement officers, for people who kill while in prison and people who rape their victims before killing them.

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March 6, 2013 at 05:50 PM | Permalink


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A shame Ohio hasn't yet shown the same political courage and vision.

Posted by: peter | Mar 7, 2013 3:41:45 AM

: : Peter: : Perhaps there is a reason for this Ohio treason, for this lack of courageous vision.

Perhaps, some there have a connection to a victim of a murderer who has lost vision, truly, e.g.

| Six years ago, Spokane's Michael West called himself "Lucifer" and killed his cellmate in the Spokane County Jail.
At the time, he was serving a sentence for rape and assault. ... On Sunday, West attacked another cellmate
while in a temporary cell at the Airway Heights Correction Center, gouging the man's eye out. |
(KREM.com: 10/14/10)

Posted by: Adamakis | Mar 7, 2013 9:11:34 AM

Adamakis --

The problem with you is that you persist in giving actual facts about the killer's behavior, instead of holding forth with flowery language like "political courage and vision."

Look, don't you know by now that facts don't matter? Just get on your soapbox and hold forth about the moral superiority of keeping remoreseless killers around so they can do it again.

I mean, that IS the morally superior thing to do..............isn't it?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 7, 2013 9:52:55 AM

You are both behind the argument .... and lost it - the debate has moved on.

Posted by: peter | Mar 7, 2013 12:55:29 PM

To B. Otis:
Perhaps. In asserting that O'Malley is hereby demonstrating courage, "peter" is reminiscent of Scut Farkus's toady,
Grover Dill, in "A Christmas Story", but possibly best characterised by Dickens as falling within the definition betwixt
the "toadies and humbugs”~~ {Great Expectations}

To peter, obliquely:
"that which knows and that which is known exist ever" {"Rebublic" by Plato}

Posted by: Adamakis | Mar 7, 2013 2:51:38 PM

peter --

"You are both behind the argument .... and lost it - the debate has moved on."

Then there's no need for you to continue your holier-than-thou lectures, now is thare?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 7, 2013 8:02:34 PM

How do states and nations without the death penalty handle the problem of killing in prison? What happens when the person is insane (the cited case appears to involve such an indivdiual, but let's just give it as a hypo given Ford v. Wainwright)? Anyway, if Maryland passes this law, certain people will complain that our republican system of government not properly reflect popular will.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 7, 2013 10:20:38 PM

Joe --

"...if Maryland passes this law, certain people will complain that our republican system of government not properly reflect popular will."

Do you think the people of Maryland have a right to cancel any abolition meanure by popular vote? The people of Colorado and Washington effectively cancelled their states' pot laws by popular vote, and I didn't see anyone here complaining about it. Shouldn't the same option be available to the people of Maryland? Marylanders already exercised that option less than five months ago by using a popular to legalize gay marriage. Deosn't it follow that they should have the same opportunity to legalize the DP?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 8, 2013 8:37:44 AM

"To be repulsed by crime, to have compassion for the victims and sorrow for the suffering of their loved ones, does not make the death penalty just. The decades between crime and punishment blunt retributive effects. Inconsistency means equal horrors do not face equal penalty. For the death penalty, there is nothing left to say." a Washington editorial

Posted by: peter | Mar 8, 2013 9:07:04 AM

No matter the issue, I'm not a big fan of popular initiatives as a means of government, and most states tend to use it sparingly. Most legislation done the usual way. But, there is a basic power there to put such a matter up to the popular vote. States have generally not done so.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 8, 2013 9:39:49 AM

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