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O'Malley will move forward on setting execution protocol

May 23, 2008

ANNAPOLIS (AP) - Gov. Martin O'Malley, an opponent of capital punishment, said Thursday he will "sadly" move forward with getting Maryland's execution protocol approved, a step required by the state's highest court before another execution can take place.

The Court of Appeals ruled in late 2006 that the state could not hold another lethal injection until a legislative committee gave proper approval to the rules about how executions are carried out.

O'Malley has backed a repeal of capital punishment, but legislation to replace a death sentence with life in prison without possibility of parole has failed for two consecutive years in the Maryland General Assembly.

"I wish we would arrive at a point where we repeal the death penalty, but I do not have the luxury in this job, or the permission in this job, only to enforce laws that I'm in favor of and that I agree with," O'Malley told reporters.

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Instead of a repeal, lawmakers decided this year to create a commission to study whether the death penalty deters crime and is cost-effective.

O'Malley considered whether to include the execution protocols as part of the death penalty study, but he decided the two would proceed on "two separate tracks."

The commission is set to submit its findings by Dec. 15.

"The rulemaking doesn't have that time limit, but I anticipate they'll probably both take at least the balance of the year to conclude," O'Malley said.

The governor said he directed Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Gary Maynard on Thursday to begin developing the protocols, which include what chemicals are used during the lethal injection process, the dosages and other medical aspects of the procedure.

O'Malley said he had not put the protocol procedure in motion earlier because the repeal legislation was pending in the General Assembly, and because he was waiting to see what the U.S. Supreme Court would decide in its evaluation of lethal injection. In April, the Supreme Court upheld Kentucky's method of lethal injection, which is the most commonly used method in the country.

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