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Maryland Governor to File Legislation Repealing Death Penalty

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has set the state on the path to repealing the death penalty, announcing that he will file legislation this week with the Maryland General Assembly to eliminate capital punishment. Lawmakers and civil rights groups, including the NAACP and Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, supported the governor during an event Tuesday.

“I believe, especially in tough times, if there is something that we are doing in our government that is expensive and does not work, then we should stop doing it,” O’Malley said, according to The Washington Times. “The death penalty is expensive and it does not work, and for that reason alone I believe we should stop doing it.”

O’Malley has twice sought a ban on capital punishment during his term, but has failed on both occasions. Maryland law currently allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty in cases of first-degree murder with conclusive biological, videotaped or DNA evidence. Opponents of the death penalty have focused on the high administrative and legal costs surrounding capital cases.

Over the last decade, Maryland’s use of capital punishment has been under examination. Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening suspended state executions in 2002, and a study was conducted to examine racial bias within the system. Six years later, the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment deemed that the capital punishment should be repealed because of the possibility of bias against African-Americans, and the chance that an innocent person could be killed.

O’Malley’s predecessor Robert Ehrlich lifted the suspension for a period, allowing the state to execute a pair of murderers. Maryland has only carried out the death penalty against five defendants since 1976. There are currently five men on the state’s death row awaiting the result of O’Malley’s proposed legislation.

Though Maryland rarely exercises capital punishment, it does have its supporters within the state. A statewide poll conducted by OpinionWorks showed that 48 percent of the 800 people polled supported the death penalty. In Baltimore specifically, 52 percent respondents opposed repealing the death penalty.

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