Maryland advances towards abolishing death penalty

The Maryland State House. Credit: nathanm via (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
The Maryland State House. Credit: nathanm via (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

.- The Maryland senate has passed a bill that would locally overturn the death penalty, placing the state closer to outlawing the practice.

“It’s time to end this ineffective and expensive practice and put our efforts behind crime fighting strategies that work,” Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said in a statement.

The Maryland state senate voted 27 to 20 on March 6 to repeal the death penalty. If passed, the legislation would would replace death sentences with life in prison and no possibility of parole.

If the bill becomes law, the five inmates currently on death row would not be affected by the new measure.

It moves next to the state House of Delegates, which could vote on the legislation early next week. The bill has the support of the state Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch, along with 67 co-sponsors- four delegates shy of a majority.

“I keep hearing that everything is on track for passage in the House, and it would take something extraordinary to derail it,” Delegate Sam Aurora, one of the bill's co-sponsors, to the Washington Times.

The death penalty is currently legal in 33 states, including Maryland, though Maryland has not executed a prisoner since 2005.

Governor Martin O’Malley is a strong supporter of the bill, introducing it in January alongside its co-sponsors. O’Malley has attempted to repeal the death penalty since first taking office in 2007. In 2009, he sponsored a bill opposing capital punishment within the state, though it was rejected by the state Senate.

The bill has been endorsed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Archbishop William E. Lori of the Baltimore archdiocese has been a vocal supporter of the measure.

Archbishop Lori testified in Annapolis on Feb. 14 before the state Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. The hearings marked the first time that the archbishop, who chairs the Maryland Catholic Conference, has appeared before the Maryland General Assembly.

“While those who have done terrible harm to others deserve punishment,” he said during his remarks, “we urge a response that meets evil with a justice worthy of our best nature as human beings, enlightened by faith in the possibility of redemption and forgiveness.”

If the legislation passes the local house, it may be placed on a referendum before the state’s citizens, who could overturn the vote. The outcome of that measure, if taken, would not be known until November.

Tags: Death Penalty

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