"MARYLAND: Senate approves bill to repeal death penalty," is the AP filing written by Brian Witte. It's via Delmarva Now.
The Maryland Senate has approved a measure to repeal capital punishment.
The Senate vote Wednesday pushes the death penalty ban over a hurdle that blocked Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's repeal efforts in 2009.
The bill now moves to the House of Delegates, where supporters are confident they have the votes to pass it.
"Senate votes to repeal death penalty," is Michael Dresser's post for the Baltimore Sun.
The Senate has been viewed by repeal proponents as a tougher challenge than the House. In 2009, the last year O'Malley pushed to end capital punishment, the effort ended in a compromise that narrowed the circumstances under which the death penalty could be sought.
This year, the NAACP decided to make repeal in Maryland a priority and urged O'Malley to include it in his legislative agenda. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, despite his personal support for capital punishment, promised to allow an up-or-down vote in his chamber if O'Malley could show he had the votes to pass the bill.
A breakthrough for death penalty opponents came when Sen. Robert A. Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat, reversed his previous opposition to repeal and provided the sixth vote needed to approve the bill in the Judicial Proceedings Committee and send it to the Senate floor. There, opponents of the legislation tried repeatedly but failed to win approval of amendments creating various exceptions to full repeal.
Maryland currently has five men on death row for murders committed as far back as 1983. The bill does not directly affect them, but it expresses the Senate's view that if the governor commutes their sentences, it should be to life without parole. Raskin said that under the state Constitution, the legislature could not put any statutory limit on the governor's commutation and pardon powers.
Washington Post coverage is, "Death penalty repeal approved by Maryland Senate," by John Wagner.
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 more certain.
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.
"Maryland Senate passes O'Malley's death penalty repeal bill," is the Annapolis Capital Gazette report by Alex Jackson.
After more than two hours of debate, the Senate voted 27-20 in favor of the repeal. The legislation would make Maryland the 18th state to abolish the death penalty and make the highest form of punishment life without parole.
Republican Sens. Ed Reilly, R-Crofton, and Sen. Allan Kittleman, R-Howard, joined 25 Democrats in supporting the bill. Ten Democrats and 10 Republicans voted against the bill.
Shortly after the Senate adjourned, Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, was outside the chamber with a wide smile offering congratulations to senators, including Kittleman, and supporters of the bill.
"This vote marks a major milestone for the state of Maryland," Henderson said in a statement.
Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, was one of the most outspoken advocates for the repeal. He said he was hopeful the House of Delegates, which takes up the bill next, votes the same way as the Senate did.
"I'm convinced that the state is ready to repeal the death penalty," Raskin said.
Earlier coverage from Maryland begins with the preceding post.