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March 26, 2009

If death penalty restrictions pass, what happens to death row?

One of the odd things about Maryland's current debate over ending capital punishment is that, for the moment, the state doesn't really have the death penalty. The reason? The courts found that Maryland's current procedures for carrying out capital punishment were not properly adopted. That has, for the last couple of years, left the ball in the court of staunchly anti-death penalty Gov. Martin O'Malley to draft or not draft such regulations.

One of the many amendments offered by Republicans in the House of Delegates yesterday and rejected by the Democratic majority was one that would have made the proposed new restrictions on capital punishment contingent on O'Malley enacting the regulations.

The governor has said he will do it, though we don't know exactly when. And if he does put them through, what will he do with the people now on death row? As the governor, he has the responsibility to sign death warrants and the power to commute death sentences to life in prison. What will he do if it comes to that, and what should he do?

Correction: As some commenters pointed out, I goofed in saying Maryland's governor signs death warrants. Judges in this state do that. However, governors do typically conduct thorough reviews of death penalty cases before executions to decide whether they should go forward. Former Gov. Ehrlich, for example, devoted a great deal of time and attention to doing so before the two executions that took place during his term. Sorry for the error.

Posted by Andy Green at 11:17 AM | | Comments (22)


They should leave the death penalty is place, with what forensics can do with DNA, any pre-meditated murder, a life for a life. This is exactly what is wrong with this Country. There is rights for the Victims. It is all about the convict, oh the poor thing came from a broken home.
Too many bleeding heart liberals.
It use to be depending on the crime you would get bread and water, and chain gangs. Now the prisoners get central air, flat screen TV's, steak dinners, No wonder crime is getting worst and the Politicians can not get a hold of it. The criminal has it better in a prision then has on the street.
How much thought has to go into that.

If the gov doesn't have the balls to sign the death warrants, then fax them to me, I will do it for nothing and if necessary, I will gladly "pull the switch" on each and every killer on death row.

I think he needs to just put them for life in prison because my opinion is the death penalty is a lot better then rotting in jail. if you get the death penalty and when your time comes you just die you don't suffer. but if you get life in prison you suffer for it every day of the rest of your natural life. I think who puts the death penalty on someone you should be charged for murder cause your taking someone else's life from them.

Very simple. Were they convicted?Have they had their appeals? If so, execute them. I have had enough of wussified tolerance of people who had no compunction about ending someone else's life. Cruel and unusual? OK, then execute them the same way they executed their victims. That wasn't too cruel or unusual for them. QED

He should let them live with him.

The Governor will do whatever his little heart desires.

They should leave the death penalty in place. If you take a life yours need to be taken also. People are out here killing like theres no tomorrow. I dislike watching the news because everyday someone is being kill. If the governor step up and stop playing with these criminals may be things will come together. Don't have the criminals feel like they are on a vacation. Give out stiff penalties. A friend of mine from Africa spoke about the death penalty. He inform me that prisoners over in his country were only fed once a day, there was no recreation and if they disrespected a guard they would be taken out and whipped. The United Stated is too soft on criminals. It seems the victims are the ones who suffer..I'm tired of my tax dollars being use to house and take care of criminals. Aren't You? Put them in the chair and pull the lever.

He should surely release them, find suitable free housing, give them a stipend of cash to hold them over, or like the other commentor stated, what ever he want to do.

He should hurry up, do his job, and uphold the laws of the state of Maryland. All five men on death row are unquestionably guilty of terrible crimes, and four of them have exhausted their appeals and could be killed quite quickly if executions resume. Considering the recent violence against witnesses I think it would send a very positive message if Vernon Evans and Anthony Grandison were executed, since they're on death row for the murder of two witnesses more than 25 years ago. Their victims deserve justice.

Why doesn't the gov show us he has some balls! He supposedly was voted in as gov to uphold OUR laws, not chg them to his own beliefs. Pull the switch-start making a statement that we are not going to be overrun by criminals who can push the system into thinking they have more rights than their victims! If his mother-in-law or wife or daughter or whatever was murdered, etc lets see how ling it would take him to turn his views around! It takes a personal touch to stir upreal emotion in a politician! I'm fed up with all the wuzzes in Annapolis & Washington. They were voted to do as the PEOPLE want NOT what THEY want!!! Do your Job or Get OUT!!!

Why doesn't the gov show us he has some balls! He supposedly was voted in as gov to uphold OUR laws, not chg them to his own beliefs. Pull the switch-start making a statement that we are not going to be overrun by criminals who can push the system into thinking they have more rights than their victims! If his mother-in-law or wife or daughter or whatever was murdered, etc lets see how ling it would take him to turn his views around! It takes a personal touch to stir upreal emotion in a politician! I'm fed up with all the wuzzes in Annapolis & Washington. They were voted to do as the PEOPLE want NOT what THEY want!!! Do your Job or Get OUT!!!

It angers me to no end that my tax dollars go towards supporting someone sitting on death row or "life in prision." Why should I have to support you? You CHOSE to murder, beat, rape, etc. I CHOOSE not to pay for your clothes, heat, AC, food, education, etc. My husband and I work HARD to provide for our children. I could go out robbing, murdering, selling drugs too but it's stupid and wrong. This is just unbelievable.

Instead of cutting jobs and furloughing employees, we could cut state costs by carrying through with the sentence that they received. That would free capital to teach children the sense not to end up on death row.

Why does our court system have the option of a death sentence if it will never be carried out.

Don't blame me, I voted for Ehrlich!!

the weasel should start signing execution warrants today. start the executions april first. but marty and his ilk care more about the murderers, bums, and illegals in maryland then they do for decent hardworking citizens.

I bet if the governers loved ones where murdered, he wouldn't have any question about the death penalty. Why does a murderer have any rights? Did the person/people they murdered have rights? Did they have a choice as to whether they wanted to live or die. Well the murderer had a choice which they gave up when they committed murder.

In case the facts might actually matter to hard line supporters of the death penalty who dominate this blog:

1) In Maryland, as in many states, death warrants are NOT signed by the Governor. They are signed by a local judge at the initiation of the local state's attorney.

2) Every cost analysis ever done in every state clearly shows the death penalty is much more expensive than the cost of locking someone up for life. In Maryland, executing someone costs three times as much as life in prison without ever being paroled. See:

Meanwhile, almost no state tax dollars go to services that could actually provide meaningful support and assistance to families traumatized by murder. For poor families in Maryland, traumatic grief counseling is just not available.

3) Many victims advocates and murder victims' family members, on both sides of the issue, have come to see capital prosecutions as detrimental and retraumatizing to the surviving families. It too often divides families in time of crisis, with some members wanting a death sentence while some don't. If death is sought and imposed, it means years of attention on the perpetrator -- most of us know Timothy McVeigh's name; who can name any of his victims? The execution can't come quickly, unless we are willing to risk executing an innocent person. What surviving family member would take comfort in that.

A sentence of life without parole begins immediately after sentencing and is served anonymously. The victims' family in a death case must wait for years as the condemned prisoner's name and picture make the news over and over. I am fortunate that I have not lost a loved one to murder. But I am very clear, if I am ever murdered, don't put my kids through the years of trauma that a death sentence will bring. If you really think about what you would want for your family if such trauma struck, would you really want it either?

there great thing about this bill passing, is that our state politicians have now made themselves "open game" and are now targets for all the freaks and nuts. i can almost hear them loading up their guns now, hell, you can't be executed, now, for shooting the governor.LOL

People who kill, maim or otherwise destroy the lives of anyone should simply forfeit their right to intimidate society any longer. They are a burden to society as an ongoing drain on the coffers of those supporting the criminal justice system. In my mind, they have no rights whatsoever and should be either put to death or placed in a large (not too large) open room to share with others of their kind. Let them enjoy what they put others through. And I'm a Democrat!


I would think the Baltimore Sun would know by now that the Governor has absolutely no part in death warrants! The Governor does not sign death warrants, the presiding judge signs the death warrant which is generated by the prosecuting State's Attorney.

The Governor's only role in the execution of a death sentence is his constitutional power to grant clemency for whatever reason he deems fit. The writers of Maryland's Constitution as well as the US Constitution and pretty much every other state Constitution wanted the Governor or President to use their power of clemency for the purpose of "mercy" for the guilty, so as not to have a completely rigid system of justice.

I believe the Governor should commute the death sentences of the people on death row to life without the possibility of parole in the spirit of the new death penalty law, so the guilty still pay with the rest of their lives but we can all be assured that we are not going to execute an innocent person!

For this any many more reasons I will be leaving the state in the near future . You people voted for this idiot !!!!!!!!

the gov. DOES have the right to commute any sentence. just wait and see how many killers our spineless gov. executes.... i'd put my money on zero.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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