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February 11, 2011

Death penalty repeal effort begins anew

Opponents of capital punishment say they have more co-sponsors than ever on legislation to repeal the state's rarely used death penalty.

The announcement by Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg on Thursday came as the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services acknowledged it needs more time to rewrite the execution protocols — a process that has taken several years so far, creating a de facto moratorium.

Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, submitted the repeal bill Thursday. The strategy this year, he and other supporters said, is to push the legislation through the more repeal-friendly House of Delegates before presenting it to the tougher-to-predict Senate.

But that approach appears likely to hit a wall: Controversial bills typically are vetted first by the Senate, which has the power to filibuster. House Speaker Michael E. Busch, who says he has some reservations about capital punishment but does not oppose it, said the Senate is "the appropriate place" for the legislation’s first hearing.

"Considering the Senate had the latest word on the death penalty," he said, "I would want to see whether they have any appetite to take it up again."

Gov. Martin O'Malley, a longtime death penalty opponent, made a major push for repeal two years ago. His efforts were halted by senators who instead chose to make the existing capital punishment statute more restrictive.

Death penalty supporters say the state should keep the statute, which they say is now among the most restrictive in the nation.

"We've had a full-court press for repeal for three years now, and it has never succeeded," said Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger.

O'Malley is not leading the charge this year, but death penalty opponents said they believe they can get repeal legislation through the General Assembly without him. They say they have found 61 co-sponsors in the House, where 71 votes are needed for passage, and 21 in the Senate, where 24 are needed.

At a news conference Thursday, the death penalty opponents cited continuing obstacles in drafting execution protocols as another reason the state should simply repeal the statute. The latest problem is that one of the chemicals used in lethal injection, sodium thiopental, is no longer available in the United States.

In a letter Thursday, Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard said he is withdrawing the protocols that a panel of lawmakers had been scheduled to review next week. He said his agency will begin to write a new procedure, a process expected to take another six or more months.

But the delays at least partly reflect the political complications of the issue: The protocols are written by public safety officials who report to O'Malley. , a death penalty opponent. They are then reviewed by the legislative panel, headed by two other death penalty opponents.

Maryland's last execution was in December 2005. Five men are on the state's death row.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 9:44 AM | | Comments (35)
Categories: 2011 legislative session


I'm taking bets that the next fight coming down the pike is abolishing LIFE w/o PAROLE!

Any takers?

don't get rid of the death penalty. Some people say it's a deterrent for criminals to murder, while I disagree with that, the idea of capital punishment is absolutely necessary. Some crimes you just don't deserve to sit in a prison cell for the rest of your life, and the heinous nature of those crimes requires a larger punishment.

I think that those against the death penalty and hand guns for that matter, should have a large sign posted on their home and cars so criminals know their feelings.

We need to start a counter movement that we actually enforce the death penalty.

Is this the same Sandy Rosenberg who pushed legislation which made certain that even if Roe v. Wade were ever overturned that abortion can still be legal in Maryland? Death is death. Be for it or against it. Just take a stand. His stand makes no sense.

We need to get rid of all political officials who vote or support getting rid of the death penalty. If you take a life you deserve to die. Forget about injection, why give them or there families any relief. Make them suffer, hang them in a public square for all to see. After all, did they think about there victims or the victims families. I think not or the pain they left behind. What a way to handle the life sentence and budge as well.

I strongly agree with Sis, call your elected officials let them know. The Firing Squad is quick and cheap, ask for volunteers, with all the guns in this state no problem. No overcrowding, less taxes for jails. Justice will be served for the VICTIM and their loved ones.

The death penalty is immoral, It is a human rights abuse. It is costy. It is inefective. It kills innocent people. It does nothing to heal victims family members. It is just dead wrong. The death penalty has no place in a civilized society.

My brother was murdered and I am against the death penalty. The death penalty is harmful to survivors as it pretends that execution will bring "closure" (a ridiculous term) instead of letting survivors focus on healing. The legal process and the healing process are two separate things. Trials without the death penalty are less traumatic to family members. They also cost less, leaving thousands of dollars to spend where they will really help victims and society.

Justice should be swift and sure. The death penalty is neither. It takes on average (depending on the state) between 10 and 30 years and then often ends in another sentence or an exoneration -- over 130 people have been exonerated from death rows across the country (note Kirk Bloodsworth from Maryland who spent time on death row for a crime he was later proven through DNA to have NOT committed). With the lack of the lethal injection drug, it is only going to get worse. Let's scrap this money waster and reinvest in services for victims and resources for law enforcement.

We should get rid of it. It comes down to whether we should keep a system for the sake of retribution or revenge even though it isn’t effective in reducing violent crime, costs much more than alternatives and, worst of all, can lead to the nightmare of executing someone for a crime he didn’t commit.

Regardless of how we feel about the death penalty in theory, in practice, it's just not working for us. Study after study has shown that the death penalty is far more expensive than life without parole, and isn't more effective at preventing violent crime. It makes no sense that we waste millions of dollars on a death penalty system that is rarely used, takes decades to carry out, and ultimately, will always have the possibility of executing an innocent person. Maryland will be better off without the death penalty.

The death penalty is a waste of taxpayer money. Can't we just admit it doesn't work and focus on public safety policies that do? Enough already, let's end it and get it over with. why throw good money after bad?

I am a murder victims family member and I can tell you without hesitation that the death penalty is bad for victims families. It drags out their "justice" to interminable numbers of years. It spends millions on the offender's defense that are not available for much needed victim services. It turns the offender into a household name and the victim is quite often genuinely unknown and forgotten. Case is point - everyone knows who Tim McVeigh is, who John Wayne Gacy is, right? Name one of their victims.

Life without parole is quickly resolved for victims families, and it means permanent and anonymous incarceration for life. The offender sits and suffers in a cell. The victims get on with focusing on memorializing their loved ones.

And most of all, we do not become what those awful people are - kilers.

Others make a good point. Whether you support or oppose the death penalty, it's impossible to justify it's use today, when there are strong alternatives. We know too much about the way the death penalty has failed survivors of murder victims and all citizens. There is limited pot of law enforcement dollars out there. We ought to be using them for policies that work.

I'm a staunch supporter of the death penalty. If the crime fits the punishment, then that person deserves to rightfully die for his/her actions.

Doesn't the good book say: "Eye for an Eye?"

What happens when a proven criminal is leading witness intimidation or gang activity through the jails? What happens to a criminal who murders in prison? What more can we do to someone with a life sentence without parole? The answer... Lethal injection. Our Crime rate is already high, let's not take a page from California and foster gang violence that LA has incubated.

Sis obviously doesn't care whether or not she convicts or executes an innocent person. The system we have now is a system prone to make mistakes. There is a reason why there are almost 140 people in this country who have been exonerated from death row. The State of Maryland has put an innocent person on death row --Kirk Bloodsworth. Our government should be better than the criminals we seek to punish.

Despite great philosophical differences, supporters and opponents of the death penalty agree on one basic fact: the government should never put an innocent person to death.
In recent years, however, numerous studies have found that one in seven people sent to death row are later proven innocent. And in one disturbing recent case, a prisoner was 48 hours from execution when he was proven innocent. In the last 25 years, 102 innocent people have been released from death row.

Given this frightening history -- and with evidence mounting that more and more innocent people are sent to death row each year -- a nationwide movement has sprung up calling for a moratorium on executions. Even hard-fast supporters of the death penalty like Republican Gov. George Ryan of Illinois have recognized that there are serious flaws in the death penalty system that must be studied and resolved. That's why he stopped all executions in Illinois until the state can examine why more death row inmates have been found innocent and released from prison than executed since the reinstatement of the state's death penalty in 1977.

Governor Ryan is not the only one who sees something terribly wrong with the capital punishment system. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), and Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA) have been working on the "Innocence Protection Act", a bill that would provide new safeguards in capital cases. In the 107th Congress, two-hundred thirty-four Representatives and 25 Senators cosponsored the House and Senate bills respectively. This bill will be re-introduced in the 108th Congress. Urge your Members of Congress to become sponsors. It is time to stop the talking, pass the legislation, and take action to end the execution of innocent people.

Act Now for Fairness:
Support the "Innocence Protection Act"

Antiquated legal procedures and resistance from prosecutors have limited the promise of new investigative technologies like DNA testing.
The "Innocence Protection Act" would allow prisoners on death row to request DNA testing on evidence from their case that is still in the government's possession.

Many states and the federal government have drastically slashed funding to attorneys appointed to represent defendants in death penalty cases.
The "Innocence Protection Act" would help insure that everyone on death row has access to a professional and experienced lawyer thus helping eliminate horror stories involving lawyers who have fallen asleep during the trail, shown up in the courtroom drunk, never met with their clients or have extremely limited legal experience.

Judges are not now required to inform juries that they can sentence a defendant to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Recognizing the number of people exonerated of crimes after their conviction, The "Innocence Protection Act" would encourage states to make sure that juries are aware of all their sentencing options.

Abolishing capital punishment will be one less tool for police and society to fight crime. As fas as suffering in a cell- hardly. How many death row inmates commit suicide? Very very few which means prison is easily tolertaed and for many- see Richard Speck as an example- there HUNDREDS of them, enjoyable. Liberals have failed to understand the sociopath/psychopathic mind once again. How these monsters laugh at you? Death is correct for certain circumstances- even if liberals made it take 20 years to pass sentence.

There is nothing unconstitutional about the death penalty or varioius means to swiftly and certainly dispatch our most heinous offenders. The blah blah about "chemicals" is largely driven by the Catholic Church, the Governor's ultimate authority, except of course when abortion and birth control arise(Judge O'Malley must be a terror to dispute in the home). Shiny steel gallows with reliable rope can be erected from Oakland to Solomons, from Elkton to Pocomoke City, with several in our family friendly Malls and soon to be thriving slots parlor. Tickets can and should be sold, along with broadcasting rights, and a futures market to generate investments that project falls in crime rates correlated with incidences of execution. Betting on the "races", socalled, of the future executed could also generate state revenue. These proposals are not intended as Irony. They are intended to force reality into the consicousness of killers and thugs.

For all those who sympathize with those who murder others, take these mofos to your house to live and you take care of them instead of wasting taxpayers money that could be used for something else. I say leave the death penalty alone and kill all of them that are sitting on deathrow

Moses got it right: "Thou shalt not kill." And that applies to all of us.

Capital punishment is a waste of electricity.

It would be better to use a baseball bat. We all believe the criminal has a right to go before a judge, so if the ultimate judge is on the dark side of the moon, we need to get the accused in the celestial court-hence, the baseball bat.

Capital punishment accomplishes one thing we can all agree on. It comes with a guarantee. It guarantees that the same crime can't be committed twice.

Last point to ponder. If you had the experience of witnessing the actual crime in question, chances are you would view capital punishment more favorably..

As far as occasionally baseball batting the wrong guy-who really cares. Since 1960 the world population doubled. Pass out the baseball bats. Swing batter swing!!

Note from Julie: We use lethal injection in Maryland, not the electric chair.

Momentum is building toward ending the death penalty nationally, as more states realize that it is a drain on their budgets, diverting funds from such necessities as education and job creation. They have learned that the death penalty contains inherent risks for convicting and executing innocent people; that a disproportionate percentage of death row prisoners are people of color and the economically disadvantaged; and that it does nothing to keep our communities and families safe from homicide. A repeal bill is sitting on the Illinois Governor's desk awaiting his signature, having passed both the state House and Senate in recent weeks. Just yesterday, February 11, Montana's Senate Judiciary Committee passed a death penalty repeal bill, and other states are considering repeal measures as I write this post. Such legislation has bipartisan support, and a range of groups and individuals -- liberals, conservatives, people of faith, law enforcement officials, young and senior, whites and people of color -- are backing repeal. New York, New Jersey and New Mexico all abandoned the death penalty in the last few years. Maryland can be part of the groundswell of support for ending the death penalty and replacing it with much more effective crime fighting, crime prevention, and community protection alternatives.

Putting the morality state sanctioned executions.

The death penalty is simply too expensive. Many people blame the appeals process, but even taking that out the increased expense of a death penalty tril alone, costs more than life without parole.

In my opinion, it's about whether we should keep a system for the sake of retribution or revenge even though it isn’t effective in deterring others, costs much more than life without parole and, worst of all, can lead to the nightmare of executing someone for a crime he didn’t commit.

We should scrap the death penalty.

The SAME people against the death penalty for those who have committed the most extreme kinds of murderous crime are those that have no moral issues with killing an unborn child.

THAT is a sick sick human.

It is time for Maryland to abolish the death penalty.

The risk of executing an innocent person is simply too great. While Maryland’s recent reforms helped lessen the chance of executing an innocent person, the only real way to eliminate the possibility of executing an innocent person is to end capital punishment.

Maryland’s death penalty has too many racial and economic disparities, and is implemented arbitrarily.

Maryland’s death penalty is expensive and is not a deterrent. Maryland’s death penalty has cost tax payer 186$ million dollars, meanwhile in the last four years there have been no executions, and the murder rate in Maryland has actually dropped.

It is time for the legislature of Maryland to eliminate this antiquated, unnecessary, ineffective, expensive practice.

The legislature does not have to abolish the death penalty: the Governor and Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals have already de facto if not de jure done that. O'Malley will keep the moratorium on the death penalty as long as he is Governor and Chief Judge Bell will continue to twist and turn whatever way he has to to judicially keep any death sentence from being carried out. The scum on death row need not worry as long as those two are in office.

I am amazed how people who no very little about the way the death penalty really works are so absolutely sure about its morality and usefulness. e.g. "An eye for an eye" was used in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, to reign in the severity of punishment. I also need to point out that God specifically marked Kain so he would not be executed.

In addition very often a criminal get's the death penalty while others who committed crimes at least as heinous get a prison sentences. It is also a fact that if you are poor you are much more likely to get the death penalty. Talking about Justice.

I am also recommending The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett especially chapter 11 to everyone who is really concerned about public safety.


When will the U.S. join the rest of the civilized world and abolish the death penalty. Since the 1960's EU member states have absolutely abandoned the death penalty in law because it is considered a denial of human dignity. It is not un-American to do a little soul searching and ask why people choose to lag behind socially on such a core issue. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that demonstrates that this barbaric form of punishment deters criminals. What the studies do show is that there is an enormous racial bais at play when the death penalty verdict is announced. If you don't want to play the race card, then examine the costs. A death penalty verdicts costs more than a life sentence. MD spent 386 million dollars prosecuting five criminals.

Why not eliminate all the appeals and costs that everyone complains about?

As far as being a deterent, how do we know as it is almost never used!!!!!!!!

If a murder is committed, there are multiple witnesses, it is caught on video, the murderer confessed to it and there is indisputible DNA and forensic evidence, in that cases you are not executing an innocent person.

Oh, and we are one of the lst countires to still have the death penalty because we have the one othe the highest crime rates.

Please explain to me how the death penalty is too costly. How can it be too expensive as opposed to feeding, housing, edicating and recreating inmates for their entire lives. If there is undeniable proof someone is guilty of murder, I have no problem putting someone to death.

"An eye for an eye makes the world blind."

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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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