Gov. Martin O'Malley pushes repeal of death penalty in Maryland

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Local,Maryland,Andy Brownfield

ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. Martin O'Malley made a marathon push to repeal the death penalty in Maryland, testifying before committees in both chambers of the General Assembly on Thursday.

"The death penalty does not make us stronger or more secure as a people. Nor does the death penalty make our laws more effective or more just," O'Malley told the House Judiciary Committee. "Capital punishment is expensive, it does not work, and we should replace it with life without parole."

The governor contended that the death penalty does not deter criminals from committing heinous crimes, is costly to taxpayers because of the lengthy and numerous court battles and does not reflect the values of the state.

O'Malley argued that the money used to prosecute capital crimes and uphold death penalty convictions could be better spent on means to reduce crime before it happened.

There was some disagreement on those points.

Harford County State's Attorney Joe Cassilly said the death penalty is the only punishment that can be handed to inmates already serving a life sentence who murder fellow inmates or corrections officers.

It's "a bill to legalize certain forms of murder."

Baltimore State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger said Maryland already had one of the strictest capital punishment statutes in the country, due to a 2009 overhaul.

"Texas has executed 474 individuals in modern times, Maryland -- five," he said.

Maryland has executed five inmates in the last 50 years and hasn't put to death any prisoners since 2005. There is a de facto moratorium on executions in the state since O'Malley's administration has declined to put protocols in place to let the execution of Maryland's five current death row inmates move forward.

The measure would eliminate the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole. It also would create a fund to be used to support witnesses to, victims of and the families of victims of violent crimes.

A legislative analysis estimates the bill would save the state nearly $1 million in fiscal 2014 and $800,000 every year after that.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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Andy Brownfield

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner