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Md. death penalty repeal effort lives

February 10, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — Democrats in Annapolis are trying again to repeal Maryland's death penalty.

Delegates and senators announced Thursday that they're resubmitting a bill to end capital punishment in Maryland, which has five people on death row.

One repeal advocate, Del. Anne Healey, D-Prince George's, also said the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has withdrawn proposed death-penalty procedures from review.

Sodium thiopental, a drug Maryland and other states use as part of the lethal-injection process, is no longer available in the United States.

Healey is the co-chairwoman of a legislative committee that was scheduled to review death-penalty protocols next week.

The review was a necessary part of a process to allow the death penalty to be carried out again after a years-long de facto moratorium.

"I will resubmit the regulations to you after the conclusion of this review," Gary Maynard, the secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, wrote in a letter dated Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

Maynard, who said he received advice from the Maryland Attorney General's Office, did not specify how long the review would take, the AP reported.

In December 2006, the Maryland Court of Appeals said the state improperly adopted its death-penalty procedure and couldn't execute inmates until the problem was corrected.

Sen. Lisa Gladden, D-Baltimore City, has pushed for passage of a repeal in the Senate in recent years, but the strategy this session will be to try the House of Delegates first, she said.

Democrats have large majorities in both chambers.

As of Thursday, there were 61 House sponsors and 21 Senate sponsors, according to supporters, who called the death penalty ineffective, inhumane and discriminatory based on race and geography.

Almost all of the sponsors are Democrats, but, for the first time, there also are a few Republicans, said Jane Henderson, the executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions.

GOP supporters on an MD CASE sponsor list include Dels. Warren E. Miller of Howard County and Susan L.M. Aumann of Baltimore County and Sen. Edward R. Reilly of Anne Arundel County.

The death penalty has had strong support within the majority-Republican Washington County delegation in recent years.

In 2007, then-Sen. Alex X. Mooney was a swing vote on a repeal bill in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Mooney said he was conflicted between his Catholic faith and his conservative political views, then voted in favor of keeping the death penalty.

At the time, he said an important factor was that the death penalty might protect correctional officers from being murdered by inmates.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, has said the death penalty is an ineffective deterrent against crime, and the state could spend money more wisely.

He testified for its repeal in 2007, but hasn't made abolition of capital punishment a legislative priority this year.

Two years ago, state law was amended to limit the circumstances in which a death sentence can be imposed.

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