Maryland became the 18th state to abolish the death penalty Thursday, as Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signed the bill he vied for into law. The law will not affect five prisoners currently on death row, but O’Malley will consider whether to commute their sentences, according to the Associated Press.
While Maryland is the sixth state to eliminate the penalty in as many years and the first to do so south of the Mason Dixon line, other southern states are headed in the opposite direction. Florida just passed a bill (not yet signed into law) to speed up the death penalty, with legislators saying, “this is not about guilt or innocence,” while Mississippi is slated to execute an inmate next week without having tested available DNA from the crime scene. Nonetheless, the general trend away from the death penalty may have constitutional implications.