MICHELLE JANAYE NEALY
ANNAPOLIS — A measure that would abolish the death penalty in Maryland was advanced Tuesday by state senators after they rejected several amendments proposed by Republican lawmakers to maintain capital punishment in cases of heinous crime.
Senators approved the measure on its second reading, moving it to a final vote expected Wednesday.
Senators defeated five amendments that would have maintained the death penalty for circumstances involving individuals who hire contract killers, prisoners who commit murder while already serving out sentences of death or life without parole and for criminals who murder teachers or students on the grounds of a school or day-care facility.
“We as a society are not going to tolerate people in our correctional facilities, or outside and being transported, who may kill and kill and kill again,” said state Sen. E.J. Pipkin, an Upper Shore Republican, who introduced an amendment aimed at protecting correctional officers.
Lawmakers opposed to repealing the law invoked the recent massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut to justify the death penalty in limited cases.
“This amendment of making school-related murders an exception to the repeal sends a resounding message that Marylanders believe that the highest criminal penalty should be applied to those who commit homicidal acts against our teachers, our students and our children in our institutions of learning throughout the state,” said state Sen. Joseph Getty, a Carroll County Republican, who introduced an amendment to try to deter school violence.
Lawmakers backing the repeal bill rejected several other amendments on the Senate floor on Monday night that would have upheld the death penalty for killing a police officer in the line of duty, for kidnappers that kill, for serial killers and for inmates who murder others while trying to escape.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, believes the Senate will approve the appeal measure despite his opposition.
Maryland has five men on death row.
The state’s death penalty has been on hold since a 2006 court ruling said the state’s lethal injection protocols weren’t properly approved by a legislative committee. Executions can’t resume until the protocols are approved.
If passed, Maryland would become the sixth state in six years to abolish the death penalty and the 18th state to ban it. Connecticut banned it last year. Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and New Mexico also have banned capital punishment in recent years.