Maryland has what some have called “the most restrictive” death penalty laws in the Nation among the states that allow it, but for many that is still not good enough.
The Maryland State Senate President, Thomas V. Mike Miller announced Wednesday that if Governor Martin O’Malley can line up enough support for a repeal of the state’s death penalty he will assure the legislation gets a vote in his chamber. Although a proponent of the death penalty, Miller is willing to give the legislation a chance for success at being passed. According to the Huffington Post Miller said,
If he shows me the votes, if he’s got the votes on the floor of the Senate, then we’ll find a way to move it forward. But this is not just a debating site where you sit and debate the bills that don’t have a chance of passage.
Governor O’Malley has a long history of being a death penalty opponent and sought a repeal four years ago. Although he was unable to get the legislation passed in its entirety at that time, he was able to compromise with the Senate and settled for legislation that greatly limits the circumstances under which the death penalty can be used as punishment for crime. However, he has once again come under pressure from opponents of the death penalty to push for a repeal.
A spokesperson for the Governor, Takirra Winfield said that Governor O’Malley has not yet decided which pieces of legislation will be included in the coming session. However she did stress, “that his views have not changed and that he still believes the death penalty is a drain on the state.”
There are currently 5 men on death row in Maryland for murders ranging as far back as 1983. There are however no imminent executions, due to a court ruling in 2006 that threw out state regulations governing how the death penalty is to be carried out. Those regulations have been rewritten several times but have all been rejected by a legislative panel.
The problem for the death penalty repeal proposals in the Senate has to do with the Judicial Proceedings Committee, which supports keeping capital punishment by a 6-5 majority. This means that the best route to get a Senate vote is to petition to have the legislation brought directly to the floor, bypassing the committee altogether.
Although it takes at least 24 votes to pass legislation, proponents of the death penalty repeal argue that they could reach that threshold if they could get the proposal past the Judicial Proceedings Committee. Supporters of the measure are confident that if they are able to pass the bill through the Senate it will be approved in the House of Delegates.