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.