Maryland Line Top News — 07 March 2012
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS – The latest attempt to repeal Maryland’s death penalty is likely to falter in committee, just three years after Gov. Martin O’Malley’s coordinated campaign to end capital punishment ended in compromise.

A bill to end state-sanctioned executions is back on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee’s agenda this year.

If passed by the General Assembly, it would grant life sentences, without the possibility of parole, to all inmates currently on death row and require the governor to allocate money to the State Victims of Crime Fund during certain fiscal years.

But Committee Chair Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, doesn’t expect the bill to get voted out of committee.

“I don’t think the vote’s going to go differently,” Frosh said, referring to the 5-6 split a repeal bill garnered the last time Judicial Proceedings voted on one.

But you don’t really know until you vote, Frosh added.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, that vote had yet to occur.

At a Wednesday afternoon hearing, committee vice-chair and bill sponsor Sen. Lisa Gladden, D-Baltimore, pointed out the bill differed from its predecessors in one key respect.

The money saved by ending capital punishment would go to victims’ families, Gladden said.

Remaining testimony played out as it had in years past, though those promoting the repeal applauded the addition of victims’ services.

In 2009, the current capital punishment law was passed. The measure was considered a compromise, as it prohibits prosecutors from pursuing the death penalty unless DNA or video evidence implicates the defendant.

Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, placed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2006, after ruling the state’s lethal injection protocols were improperly adopted and required an update.

O’Malley, who championed the death penalty’s repeal until the bill’s failure in 2009, effectively extended the ban when he withdrew his proposed regulation changes last legislative session.

The withdrawal was the result of news that the U.S. company responsible for manufacturing one of the three drugs used in Maryland’s lethal injections, sodium thiopental, was ceasing its production.

In the meantime, executions have stalled and, as of yet, no one has been placed on death row under Maryland’s new capital punishment law.

A cross-filed version of the proposed repeal is slated to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on March 20, where it’s likely to receive a favorable recommendation because 11 of its 22 members are cosponsors.

Frosh said Judicial Proceedings hears a death penalty bill each year because opponents of capital punishment are fervent.

“Basically, if you oppose the death penalty it’s hard to sit on the sidelines,” Frosh said.

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About the Author

Dave Nyczepir, 23, is a graduate student at the University of Maryland covering politics and the budget. He received his bachelor's religious studies from the College of William and Mary and freelanced most recently for the Prince George's Sentinel, covering politics, education and the environment.