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Maryland Abolishes Death Penalty

Maryland has become the latest state to outlaw the death penalty:

With a stroke of a pen, Gov. Martin O’Malley removed the death penalty from state law Thursday – making Maryland the 18th state in the nation to have abolished capital punishment.

Surrounded by advocates who have fought for repeal year after year, the governor signed legislation setting life without parole as the maximum sentence for even the most heinous murders. The bill, which passed both the Senate and the House with votes to spare this session after being squelched in committee in previous years, fulfills a goal O’Malley set early in his administration.

Death penalty repeal was one of more than 200 measures approved by O’Malley at the second mass bill-signing ceremony since the end of the state’s annual legislative session April 8.

Among them were measures legalizing the use of marijuana to help relieve the pain of people with serious medical conditions and making it easier for immigrants who are here illegally to obtain driver’s licenses.

But it was the abolition of the death penalty after more than 300 years on the books in Maryland that took center stage. The Archdiocese of Baltimore announced plans to illuminate the Basilica of the Assumption from dusk Thursday through dawn Friday to celebrate the repeal.

While the legislation would prevent future death sentences in Maryland, it does not finally shut down death row. Five men remain under sentence of death in the state, for murders going back as 1983, and so far O’Malley has declined to commute their sentences.

None is in imminent danger because the state has been operating under a de facto moratorium since 2006, when the Court of Appeals struck down the rules under which executions were carried out. With passage of repeal, it is questionable whether they will ever be revised.

Most likely these men will see their sentences commuted to life without parole, which to me seems like a harsher punishment than death to some extent.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Scott says:

    I turned against the death penalty when it became clear that innocent people could be put to death through defects in the judicial system. To my mind, if just one person was incorrectly put to death, then that is one too many. There is no room for an oops here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  2. Anderson says:

    SEE what gay marriage leads to???

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  3. stonetools says:

    Good for Maryland, which I think of as my home state. Now if we can just get Virginia (where I now live) to follow suit.

    Martin O’Mally has had a great year.

    * passed law establishing same sex marriage
    * passed infrastructure bill constituting a stimulus
    * passed gun safety legislation
    * abolished the death penalty

    Best damn progressive governor in the nation:-).

    He has definitely burnished his resume for a step up to the federal level.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  4. Septimius says:

    Most likely these men will see their sentences commuted to life without parole, which to me seems like a harsher punishment than death to some extent.

    I love that astoundingly stupid argument. Does that fact that virtually every death row inmate appeals for a new sentencing hearing when the best they could possibly hope for is life without parole register with you? Do you really think that the remaining death row inmates in MD are upset that their sentences will be commuted to life without parole?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 9

  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Septimius:

    What’s your point??

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. Tyrell says:

    @Scott: Would you include a person who kidnaps, assaults, and murders s child, even when proof is clear? What if Hitler was on trial ? Would you have disallowed the death penalty at Nuremberg for the Nazi mass murderers?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  7. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tyrell:

    what if Hitler was on trial?

    I would probably question the judgment of a government that has dug up the charred remains of a corpse 70 years or so after its death, and put it on trial.

    Next silly question please.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  8. grumpy realist says:

    I find it remarkable that the same group of people who are so suspicious of the Eeevil Gummint and how incompetent it is when the topic is taxes, registration and controlling of guns, policy, regulation of food/water/whatever are the same people who immediately turn around and say this same government never makes a mistake when it comes to accusations and death penalties….

    String ’em up, boyo; don’t worry if we made a mistake. Cracked eggs and all that.

    I guess a bunch of pasty white males could never conceive of a situation when it’s their own ox getting gored….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  9. Scott says:

    @Tyrell: Yes, because people have been put to death or put on death row even when the “proof is clear”. Until it wasn’t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  10. Tyrell says:

    @Scott: Does that apply to freely given confessions?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  11. stonetools says:

    @Tyrell:

    You might want to look at the PBS documentary, “The Central Park Five. ” Given enough pressure, innocent people do confess to crimes they don’t commit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  12. Scott says:

    @Tyrell: As I stated at the very beginning, one inaccurate execution is one too many. So, yes, no exceptions. Not having a heinous murderer put to death is a small price to pay for preventing an innocent to be put to death.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  13. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Scott: Definitely.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. grumpy realist says:

    @Tyrell: You might want to look at some of the stuff that went down in Chicago (torture, etc.) before accepting so blindly the validity of those “freely given confessions”.

    Also considering the time, hassle, and money of getting a death penalty case through the system, it’s actually cheaper to have life-without-parole. If you want to be cold-blooded about it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  15. Lynn says:

    Having worked in a prison for several years, I can’t think of anything much worse than spending my life in such a place.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  16. Justinian says:

    Buckminster Fuller, the great architect, has a very famous quote:

    Don’t fight forces, use them.

    For the issue at hand, look at how much can get done if people don’t fight the separation of powers between the federal government and the states, but use it to accomplish what they want.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. george says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I find it remarkable that the same group of people who are so suspicious of the Eeevil Gummint and how incompetent it is when the topic is taxes, registration and controlling of guns, policy, regulation of food/water/whatever are the same people who immediately turn around and say this same government never makes a mistake when it comes to accusations and death penalties….

    That’s the part I can never get my head around either. The government is too incompetent to be trusted with little things like regulation – so we’re going to trust it with taking people’s lives? Say what???

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. J-Dub says:

    @george: you guys expect them to act rationally? The same people who are on Medicare but hate socialized medicine?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0