State to study its death penalty with list of agencies represented on commission

May 29, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- After bills to repeal Maryland's death penalty failed for two straight years, a commission will study the state's capital punishment system instead.

During the 2008 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly agreed to create the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment and give it nearly six months to issue a report.

The process of picking commission members is still under way, Christine Hansen, a spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O'Malley, said Wednesday.

The law creating the commission takes effect July 1.

The commission will be made up of 22 members from a variety of government and law enforcement entities, as well as members of the public, including relatives of a murder victim.

O'Malley has said he doesn't believe the death penalty deters crime. Last year, he testified in favor of a repeal bill.


Some legislators have said the commission seems to be another way for O'Malley to push for a repeal or called it an unnecessary duplication of past studies, unlikely to change anyone's opinion.

Others have defended it as a fresh, comprehensive look at an unresolved issue.

New Jersey had a similar study before abolishing its death penalty last year.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, voted to create the commission.

Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, also voted in favor, but Washington County's other six Republican senators and delegates opposed it.

As repeal bills have come up in Maryland, legislators and advocates on both sides have debated the costs and social value of having a death penalty.

A December 2006 Maryland Court of Appeals decision has kept capital punishment on hold because of a procedural flaw in how the state's procedure was adopted.

O'Malley has taken no action to correct the flaw during his 16 months in office, drawing criticism from Republicans.

The governor has said he was waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to decided on a Kentucky case that challenged the constitutionality of its lethal injection protocol. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Kentucky's execution process.

Last week, O'Malley said he'll reluctantly move ahead with new regulations for Maryland's death penalty.

The death penalty commission must give its final report to the General Assembly by Dec. 15.

The commission's recommendations must address racial, jurisdictional and socioeconomic disparities in capital punishment; the risk that innocent people might be executed; the effects of prolonged court cases; the costs of prosecution; and the impact of DNA evidence, according to the statute.

Death penalty commission

The 22-member Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment will include:

· State delegates Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, and William J. Frank, a Baltimore County Republican, who were appointed by the House speaker

· Gary D. Maynard, the public safety and correctional services secretary

· Katy C. O'Donnell, chief of the capital defense division, representing the state public defender

· two Maryland state senators appointed by the Senate president

· the state attorney general or his designee

· a former member of the state judiciary appointed by the chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals

· a state's attorney who has prosecuted a death penalty case, to be designated by the president of the Maryland State's Attorneys' Association

The commission also will include the following people appointed by the governor:

· a representative of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association

· a representative of the Maryland State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police

· a correctional officer in a state prison

· a former state prisoner who was exonerated of the crime for which he or she was incarcerated

· three representatives of the religious community

· six representatives of the general public, including at least three family members of a murder victim.

To read the text of the law establishing the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, go to Scroll down to "Documents." On the "Bill Text" line, click on "Chapter." Underlined sections were added to the original draft. Sections with a line through them were deleted from the original draft.

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