By Michael Winter, USA TODAY
Maryland's General Assembly on Friday completed its repeal of the
death penalty, nearly 40 years after the U.S. Supreme Court restored
The House of Delegates' 82-56 vote followed Senate approval last week.
Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat who proposed the repeal, will sign the measure
into law next month, his office said Friday afternoon. That will make
Maryland the 18th state to overturn capital punishment since it was
reintroduced in 1976.
The governor will enact the measure after the end of the legislative session, which concludes at midnight April 8, aides said.
state last executed an inmate in 2005. Maryland's highest court halted
lethal injection in December 2006, ruling that the legislature had not
properly approved the procedures.
Five men have been executed in the past 37 years.
Maryland has five men on death row, all convicted of murder. The oldest crime dates back to 1983.
repeal calls for converting death sentences to life without parole, but
it also gives the governor the ability to "commute or change a sentence
of death into a specified period of confinement."
In a statement, O'Malley said he would make a "case-by-case decision.
governor, who pushed the repeal since taking office in 2007, said the
General Assembly's action ended a policy that "is proven not to work."
shows that the death penalty is not a deterrent, it cannot be
administered without racial bias, and it costs three times as much as
life in prison without parole," he said. "What's more, there is no way
to reverse a mistake if an innocent person is put to death."
The NAACP and the Catholic Church were among the groups that organized to end executions.
applaud the Maryland General Assembly for choosing to meet evil not
with evil, but with a justice worthy of our best nature as human
beings," Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said in a statement.
people of faith who live in a civilized nation, we recognize that those
who have done great harm to others deserve punishment," he said.
"However, we must also recognize that every life has value, and that we
cannot overcome crime by executing criminals, nor can we restore the
lives of the innocent by ending the lives of those convicted of their
But, as The Baltimore Sun points out,
voters may have the final say if death-penalty supporters gather enough
petition signatures to put the issue on the 2014 ballot. Polls show a
narrow majority of state voters support capital punishment.
NAACP President Benjamin Jealous told the Sun
that should the issue go to a referendum, "We are committed to going
the distance. This is one of our biggest state-level priorities this
year and it will remain so until it is clear it is completely over."
death sentences have declined by 75% and executions by 60% since the
1990s, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.