Today's Washington Post publishes the editorial, "Another chance to end the death penalty." It begins our roundup of Maryland coverage the day after the state's General Assembly convened.
BY THE GRACE of state Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert), Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has been handed a second chance — probably his last — to abolish the state’s death penalty. He should seize it.
Four years ago, in deference to Mr. O’Malley, who opposes capital punishment, Mr. Miller, the powerful president of the Senate and a supporter of the death penalty, allowed the issue to reach the Senate floor. There, despite cajoling, the governor could not corral the 24 votes needed for abolition. Instead, a bill was enacted that limited Maryland’s death penalty to cases where there is DNA evidence, a videotaped confession or a video linking the suspect to a murder.
Now Mr. Miller has given Mr. O’Malley a green light to try again — if he can find the necessary 24 votes in the Senate.
The good news is that the votes may be within reach. (They’re already there in the House of Delegates, according to nose-counters in Annapolis.) The puzzling news is that Mr. O’Malley, though he remains as opposed to capital punishment as ever, is balking.
Perhaps the governor is simply being cautious. According to The Post’s John Wagner, 23 senators are firmly, or relatively firmly, on record as prepared to end capital punishment, and several others are on the fence. But an excess of gubernatorial caution would be a mistake. Without a push by Mr. O’Malley himself, the status quo will remain unchanged and Maryland's death penalty will remain on the books.
"Session starts amid talk of death penalty repeal," is the AP report filed by Brian Witte. It's via WTOP-FM.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Calvert County Democrat who supports capital punishment, predicted a repeal would pass in the Senate, perhaps by as many as five votes. Miller also said he believed the measure would clear the General Assembly and be sent to the ballot for voters to decide in the next election.
"I'm confident that it will be on the ballot in 2014, and that the ultimate decision will be made by the people of the state of Maryland," Miller said.
Gov. Martin O'Malley said there has been a renewed interest from death penalty opponents to repeal capital punishment.
"It doesn't work," the Democrat said on the Marc Steiner Show on WEAA-FM. "It's expensive, and I believe it should be repealed."
House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, also said he supports a repeal.
The Annapolis Capital Gazette reports, "Maryland's lawmakers go back to work," written by Earl Kelly and Pamela Wood.
The first day of the 433rd General Assembly on Wednesday was dedicated mostly to pomp and ceremony, but key lawmakers handicapped some of the looming fights on hot-button issues including a ban on the death penalty, an increase in gasoline taxes, and more gun regulations.
Gov. Martin O’Malley has made abolishing capital punishment one of his priorities, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, said a ban probably will pass in his chamber. Such bills have stalled in the Senate in prior years.
“It will go forward,” Miller, a supporter of capital punishment, told reporters soon after the session convened. “There are people that can be persuaded.”
Miller said any law that bans the death penalty likely will be petitioned to the November 2014 ballot.
The Senate president said he personally would like to see the ultimate penalty used for a wider range of homicides, including the killing of a teacher or prison guard.
"Death penalty and taxes: State session opens with weighty issues on the table," is the Frederick News-Post report by By Bethany Rodgers.
Talk of death penalty repeal and the need for transportation funding surrounded the Wednesday opening of the Maryland General Assembly's 2013 session.
As usual, the 90-day session started with ceremonial votes, visits from dignitaries and polite applause, but the camaraderie could soon buckle under the weight of some heavy issues, said Sen. David Brinkley.
A death penalty repeal is one of the measures that will stir up emotions and generate intense debate, lawmakers said.
After the Legislature broke for the day, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. told reporters he believed the repeal would pass his chamber, though it has faced roadblocks in the past.
"I think that there's a mood of change," he said.
The repeal could squeak through the 47-member Senate with as few as 24 votes or attract as many as 26, he added.
Sen. Ron Young, who represents part of Frederick County, is one of the lawmakers whose vote could be in the balance.
The state law now in place permits the death penalty only when there is DNA evidence, a videotaped confession or a videotape implicating someone in a murder.
Young said Wednesday he is happy with the rules now on the books.
"Carroll legislators weigh in on possible death penalty repeal," by Christian Alexandersen for the Carroll County Times.
While all seven members of the Carroll County Delegations to the Maryland General Assembly have supported the state’s death penalty, not all of them are against the possibility of repealing it.
On Wednesday, delegates and senators from around the state met in Annapolis to begin the 90-day legislative session. And although no legislation has been introduced to do it, repealing the state’s death penalty has become a hot topic. Some of Carroll’s representatives have already decided not to support a repeal, while others are open to the idea.
Earlier coverage of the Maryland legislative session begins at the link. The state currently has a moratorium on executions since it lacks a lethal injection procedure.