Maryland Death Penalty All But Abolished, As Governor Martin O'Malley Expected to Approve

The Maryland House of Delegates passed a measure abolishing the death penalty on Friday  after almost 20 attempts by the Republicans to sustain capital punishment for the most heinous crimes, now making life imprisonment without the possibility of parole the severest sentence in Maryland. 

The measure is expected to be approved by Governor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat who has long pushed banning capital punishment in the state. O'Malley is also a member of the Catholic Church, as is a large section of Maryland's population, an institution that opposes the death penalty. Other reasons provided by supporters for the ban include cost, jurisdictional inconsistency, racial bias, and statistical evidence as a poor deterrent of crime. Republicans were using the punishment factor as the reason to keep capital punishment in place. 

This is not Maryland's first state-wide debate on the death penalty, which was also paused in December 2006 after the state's last execution in 2005 on the basis that lethal injection protocols were not legislatively approved. Repeal of capital punishment failed during this period, and launched a commission to study the practice in 2009, which recommended a ban based on concerns with racism and disparities in judicial frameworks. 

Maryland is also not the only state to struggle with the capital punishment debate recently. Connecticut abolished the death penalty in 2012, the same year 52% of Californians voted to keep it in place. California's Proposition 34 would have not only eliminated the death penalty, but also applied it retroactively — something neither Maryland nor Connecticut offer — and would have redirected the cost savings to a program for law enforcement to fast-track their backlog of homicide and rape cases.

Thirty-two states and the federal government and military still have the death penalty in place.