Gov. O'Malley to call for Maryland death penalty repeal

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Local,Maryland,Andy Brownfield

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is scheduled Tuesday to call for an end to the state's death penalty, but it will be an uphill battle for the legislation that has spent recent years languishing in committee.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's and Calvert counties, has been a staunch opponent of repealing the state's ultimate punishment. However, he agreed to let any death penalty repeal bill out of committee if it has the 24 votes required to pass the Senate.

O'Malley told reporters in advance of last week's start to the 433rd General Assembly that he believed 22 senators are already lined up to vote for repeal.

While Miller has promised to let a bill come to a vote and said he believed it would pass, he told talk radio host Marc Steiner last week that he believed any measure would be challenged by voters, who would put it up for referendum on the 2014 ballot.

A poll released Monday by OpinionWorks shows Marylanders essentially split on the topic, with 48 percent opposing repeal and 42 saying they are in favor of it. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Some in the Republican minority want to see the punishment mandated instead of scrapped.

Del. Pat McDonough, R-Baltimore and Hartford counties, said last week that he would introduce five bills to require the death penalty in the cases of mass murder, murder of a law enforcement or corrections officer, contract murder or serial murder.

Maryland hasn't executed anybody since 2005, and only five in the last 50 years. The state hasn't been able to since 2006, when Maryland's highest court threw out the rules for lethal injection. That happened a year before O'Malley took office, and his administration has not put new procedures in place.

In 2009, Maryland passed the most restrictive death penalty overhaul in the country, reserving its use for cases where there was DNA evidence, a videotaped confession or video of the accused committing the crime.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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