Maryland Death Penalty Repeal Makes Progress In Senate

Attempts by Maryland Republicans to water down the state’s proposed death penalty repeal were defeated late Monday night. The Senate voted down 8 amendments to keep the death penalty in place for some people, including cop-killers and inmates who kill correctional officers while in prison. The repeal could get a full vote as early as today and head to the House of Delegates for debate next week.

Though Maryland has only executed 5 people since 1978, Republican lawmakers fought long into the evening to maintain exceptions to the repeal:

Republicans and Democrats offered heart-wrenching examples of murderers without remorse and officers who left behind widows and children. “But I’ve got to say, the death penalty was in place when those murders took place,” Raskin said. “It did not stop those murders.”

Other efforts to preserve Maryland’s already narrowly written death penalty law also failed as the discussion stretched late into the night. Senators unsuccessfully tried to carve out exemptions for contract killers, people who commit multiple murders, murders of children or murders committed during a kidnapping.

This is the second time Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has pushed for repeal, after his first effort failed in 2007. Maryland would be the 18th state to repeal the death penalty.

Maryland already in effect invalidated the death penalty since a judge overturned the rules for execution procedures in 2006. Still, 5 inmates remain on death row, in a “politically forged purgatory” for almost 30 years.

Maryland is following a national trend away from the death penalty; last year, judges issued the lowest number of death sentences in 20 years, while executions have declined. Despite this progress, the US is still the only G7 country where it is legal to execute citizens.

Capital punishment has fallen out of favor with both Democrats and Republicans nationally, due to mounting evidence that innocent people have been sentenced to death, and the escalating costs of housing death row inmates and pursuing extended legal battles.