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.