Coming off some high-profile wins at the ballot box this month, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is considering another run at repealing the death penalty when lawmakers reconvene in January, aides say. It’s an issue that could add to his progressive legacy.
But even if the law remains on the books, advocates on both sides agree that O’Malley (D) is all but certain to finish his two terms in office without having presided over a single execution of one of the state’s five condemned prisoners.
That’s largely because O’Malley’s administration has yet to implement regulations required for executions to resume, nearly six years after Maryland’s highest court halted use of capital punishment on a technicality. And there’s little reason to believe the politically ambitious governor will do so in his remaining two years, as drug shortages and other factors have complicated the mechanics of lethal injection in other states.
“It’s legislating by inaction,” said Sen. Joseph M. Getty (R-Carroll), a member of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and an O’Malley critic. “I’m among the members of the General Assembly who would like to see the law followed.”
O’Malley declined to be interviewed for this story, and aides said a decision about whether he will sponsor a death penalty repeal bill will be made in coming weeks. Administration officials responsible for drafting the rules needed for executions to resume offered no timetable for when they might be issued.
“We’re still working on the regulations, still exploring best practices around the country,” said Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. “It’s a serious issue, and the department is being extra careful, and that’s obviously taking some time.”
Practices around the country have changed since 2005, when Maryland executed its last prisoner, under the watch of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) — and those changes could make a return to capital punishment in the Free State even more unlikely.
A repeal bill last reached the Senate floor in 2009, when Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) allowed debate as a courtesy to O’Malley. Rather than pass the bill, the Senate amended it to tighten evidentiary standards in capital cases but to keep the death penalty on the books.
The article is also available in a condensed AP version, "O’Malley considering bill to repeal death penalty," via the Cumberland Times-News.
WTOP-FM reports, "Death penalty repeal is reintroduced in Maryland."
A bill to repeal the death penalty in Maryland will be introduced again during the 2013 lawmaking session.
Past repeal bills presented in the state have failed to reach a floor vote in 10 of the last 12 legislative sessions.
Sen. Lisa A. Gladden (D-Dist. 41) reintroduced the bill for its thirteenth time. She tells the Gazette the new bill would use money saved from capital murder cases to support families of murder victims.
Officials against the repeal say if the death penalty is on the books, it should be used. Right now the death penalty only applies to cases with DNA evidence, video evidence or video confessions.