The Daily Record reports, "Death penalty debated before committee." It's written by Steve Lash.
A former Maryland House Speaker and a man who served time on death row before being exonerated urged lawmakers Tuesday to repeal capital punishment in the state.
Opposing them were a county state’s attorney and law enforcement associations, who called the death penalty appropriate for the most heinous murders.
The two sides battled before the House Judiciary Committee over House Bill 1075, which would abolish Maryland’s death penalty.
The last attempt to repeal capital punishment in Maryland fell short in 2009. The legislative push that year did, however, lead to a law limiting the death penalty’s application to cases when the murderer’s conviction is based on DNA evidence; a videotaped, voluntary confession; or a video recording that conclusively links the defendant to the murder.
Former Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. and ex-death row inmate Kirk N. Bloodsworth urged lawmakers to take the final step and abolish capital punishment.
“Of all the votes I cast in the [House in] 28 years, the one vote that I want back is my vote to legalize the death penalty” after the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, said Taylor, a Democrat who represented Allegany County. Taylor served in the House from 1975 to 2003, and as speaker from 1994 to 2003. “It brings no one back and it cures no wrongs.”
Bloodsworth, who served two years on death row after being convicted in 1984 for the rape and murder of 9-year-old Dawn Hamilton in Rosedale, urged the committee to “end the death penalty once and for all.”
Maryland has been under a de facto death penalty moratorium since December 2006, when the Court of Appeals invalidated Maryland’s execution protocols because they had not been adopted in compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act.
The moratorium will stand unless the governor adopts new protocols following the stringent APA requirements, or the legislature amends the APA to exempt execution protocols.
Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration last month withdrew its proposed lethal-injection protocols from a General Assembly committee, saying further review was required because a drug used in the executions — sodium thiopental — is no longer available for purchase in the United States.
Julie Bykowicz writes, "Death penalty repeal unlikely, Senate president says," for the Baltimore Sun.
Advocates for abolishing Maryland's death penalty, which they called unfair and confusing after a recent revision, made their case Tuesday to a House of Delegates committee. But the effort is not likely to gain traction in the Senate.
"There's no sentiment in the Senate" to debate a repeal, said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller in an interview Tuesday. Miller, a Southern Maryland Democrat, is a proponent of capital punishment. "We've taken it up."
Two years ago, the General Assembly wrestled with a Gov. Martin O'Malley-led repeal effort. Instead of ending capital punishment, a closely divided Senate opted for a compromise plan that further limits when prosecutors can seek death. O'Malley is not pushing a repeal this year.
Even so, advocates for ending the capital punishment argue the time is right because the state's years-long de facto moratorium will only continue as officials ponder what chemicals to use in lethal injections. There's a nationwide shortage of one part of the three-drug cocktail Maryland and other states have long used.
A law professor who testified at the House hearing criticized the 2009 compromise effort, saying Maryland's death penalty statute is now more confusing than ever. At least six capital murder cases are pending in counties across the state. Next month, two are scheduled to come to trial.
"There are significant unintended consequences of this bill that are already being litigated," said David Aaronson, a law professor at American University. He named five "ambiguous" terms that are attracting legal scrutiny.
The Washington Post carries, "Death penalty repeal gets hearing but lacks momentum," by John Wagner.
Much of the same cast of characters from previous debates over repealing Maryland’s death penalty were present in the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday afternoon.
At the hearing, those speaking in favor of this year’s repeal bill included Kirk Bloodsworth, a former Maryland death row inmate later exonerated by DNA evidence. Those opposed included Scott Shellenberger (D), the state’s attorney for Baltimore County, the Maryland jurisdiction which has sent more inmates to death row than any other.
Representatives of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, the Maryland Catholic Conference and the American Civil Liberties Union were all on hand as well — as they have been in recent years.
Yet Tuesday’s hearing lacked the drama of those during the first term of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), when he made abolishing capital punishment a priority.
This year, O’Malley has not put much muscle behind the bill. House leaders seem unlikely to embrace it. And Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) told reporters Tuesday that the interest isn’t there in his chamber.
“I don’t believe there’s a sentiment in the Senate to repeal,” Miller said.
Part of the reason remains an uneasy truce reached in 2009, under which higher evidentiary standards are required in capital cases.
Earlier coverage from Maryland begins at the link.