Cumberland Times-News

November 25, 2012

O’Malley considering bill to repeal death penalty

Maryland’s highest court halted use of capital punishment nearly six years ago

John Wagner
The Washington Post

— ANNAPOLIS — Coming off some high-profile wins at the ballot box this month, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is considering another run at repealing the death penalty when lawmakers reconvene in January, aides say. It’s an issue that could add to his progressive legacy.

But even if the law remains on the books, advocates on both sides agree that O’Malley is all but certain to finish his two terms in office without having presided over a single execution of one of the state’s five condemned prisoners.

That’s largely because O’Malley’s administration has yet to implement regulations required for executions to resume, nearly six years after Maryland’s highest court halted the use of capital punishment on a technicality. And there’s little reason to believe the politically ambitious governor will do so in his remaining two years, as drug shortages and other factors have complicated the mechanics of lethal injection in other states.

“It’s legislating by inaction,” said Republican state Sen. Joseph M. Getty, a member of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and an O’Malley critic. “I’m among the members of the Maryland General Assembly who would like to see the law followed.”

O’Malley declined to be interviewed for this article, and aides said a decision about whether he will sponsor a death penalty repeal bill will be made in coming weeks. Administration officials responsible for drafting the rules needed for executions to resume offered no timetable for when they might be issued.

The standstill in Maryland, one of 34 states with a death penalty law, comes as the use of capital punishment has declined across the country in recent years. So far, 40 prisoners have been executed this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Nationally in 2000, there were 85 executions.

While public support for the death penalty has waned, attitudes have not changed nearly as quickly as on same-sex marriage, among the progressive issues O’Malley successfully championed this month at Maryland’s ballot box.