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March 3, 2009

Turmoil in the Maryland Senate

The Republican Caucus of the Maryland Senate has done a fine job chronicling the turmoil on the Senate floor today as the death penalty debate unfolded. Here's their account:

Proving the point that committee work is best done in a standing committee and not on the Senate floor, the Senate approved two amendments to SB 279 - Criminal Law - Death Penalty - Repeal that gutted the repeal provisions of the bill and substituted stricter requirements before the death penalty can be applied in a criminal case.

First, Senator James Brochin (D - Baltimore County) offered an amendment to strip the repeal provisions but require that a defendant could not be sentenced to the death penalty solely on the basis of eyewitness evidence.
Under Brochin's heightened requirements, prosecutors would have to provide physical evidence in addition to any eyewitness testimony before the death penalty applied. This amendment passed by a vote of 25 yeas and 21 nays.

Second, Senator Robert Zirkin (D - Baltimore County) offered an amendment that provided more specific requirements for physical evidence that must be introduced before a defendant can be sentenced to a death penalty. The Zirkin provisions require that a prosecutor introduce either: (1) biological or DNA evidence; (2) a videotaped voluntary interrogation and confession of the defendant; or (3) a video-recording that conclusively links the defendatn to the murder.

After adoption of these amendments, action on additional amendments floundered as Senators requested an explanation of the impact of prior amendments. When informed that the bill no longer contain repeal provisions, several anti-death penalty members expressed dismay at the course of the floor proceedings.

"What we are getting is a real mess!" bemoaned Senator Delores Kelly (D - Baltimore County). President Pro Tem Nathaniel McFadden added, "This is not one of the high points" of the Maryland Senate.

After about an hour of tumoil on the Senate floor, Senator EJ Pipkin (R - Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne's & Caroline) move to recomit the bill back to the Judicial Proceedings Committee. The motion to recomit failed on a tie vote of 23 to 23.

When the next amendment was offered by Senator David Harrington (D - Prince George's), a motion was made by Senator Pipkin to lay the amendment over with the bill under the rules. During the first 80 days of session, a motion to lay over until the next day is automatic.

The Senate recessed and will re-convene to continue the death penalty floor action at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.

Copies of the Senate votes on the amendments will be posted on our website later this evening.

Posted by David Nitkin at 6:15 PM | | Comments (7)


I was glad to see a governor standing with opponents of the death penalty instead of spying on them. God Bless and Peace be with all the legislators!

What do people find wrong with the death penalty? Doesn't the bible say: "Eye for an Eye, Tooth for a tooth?"

I'm all for the death penalty and I really couldn't care if people do find it "racist" because you know what: They did the crime of murdering an innocent victim and were given the sentence of the death. I don't care how long it takes to do lethal injection, as long as he/she croaks and realizes the punishment he/she inflicted on the victim and him/her's family.

This isn't turmoil, it's democracy. What exactly is wrong with floor debate and amendments? Why should important policy decisions be limited to a Senate committee that doesn't necessarily have an elected representative from every district?

Let me get this eyewitness evidence, no fingerprints. I guess nobody will ever be sentenced to death in Maryland again because nobody will be dumb enough to confess. Even if they did, Maryland leads the nation in confessions excluded in court.

"I was glad to see a governor standing with opponents of the death penalty"

Has he ever marched with the VICTIMS of these murderous thugs?
He is not man enough to do that.

Wow, I am always puzzled that the "Christian" folks that are so angry over abortion, in any instance, are such advocates of the death penalty, when clearly it has been proven to not work; is largely skewed when it comes to race; and the costs to enact efforts to curb a life of crime (education, social justice programs, arts, etc.) prove to be cheaper.

I guess the life of a fetus is more important than the possible life of the criminal it will grow up into...Praise the lord!

AnotherWatcher said;

"I was glad to see a governor standing with opponents of the death penalty"

Has he ever marched with the VICTIMS of these murderous thugs?
He is not man enough to do that.

Carole says;

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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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