An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  - Gandhi

Maryland Senate passes O’Malley’s death penalty repeal bill

By ALEX JACKSON, Staff Writer
Posted on March 6, 2013

The Maryland State Senate passed Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed death penalty repeal on Wednesday.

After more than two hours of debate, the Senate voted 27-20 in favor of the repeal. The legislation would make Maryland the 18th state to abolish the death penalty and make the highest form of punishment life without parole.

Republican Sens. Ed Reilly, R-Crofton, and Sen. Allan Kittleman, R-Howard, joined 25 Democrats in supporting the bill. Ten Democrats and 10 Republicans voted against the bill.

Shortly after the Senate adjourned, Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, was outside the chamber with a wide smile offering congratulations to senators, including Kittleman, and supporters of the bill.

“This vote marks a major milestone for the state of Maryland,” Henderson said in a statement.

Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, was one of the most outspoken advocates for the repeal. He said he was hopeful the House of Delegates, which takes up the bill next, votes the same way as the Senate did.

“I’m convinced that the state is ready to repeal the death penalty,” Raskin said.

Supporters of O’Malley’s bill said the death penalty was ineffective and costly. They said the death penalty hasn’t been used since 2005 and has only been used five times since it was reinstated in the 1970s.

Opponents of the bill disagreed. They argued the death penalty was a deterrent.

“The fact that we’ve only used it five times before, I think it’s a testament not that the system’s dysfunctional but that it’s working,” Pipkin said.

Opponents proposed more than 10 amendments over the course of this week’s debate to allow the death penalty in certain cases. They consistently brought up examples of heinous crimes, like the 2009 kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of 11-year-old Sarah Foxwell on the Eastern Shore.

Supporters countered those stories with numerous mentions of Kirk Bloodsworth. Bloodsworth was sentenced to death after being convicted of raping and murdering a 9-year-old girl in Baltimore County in 1984. But he was exonerated by DNA evidence and released from prison in 1993. Bloodsworth watched senators debate from the gallery Wednesday and was all smiles after their vote.

The legislation next will be voted on in the House. The House version of O’Malley’s bill, House Bill 295, was introduced with 67 co-sponsors in the House. That means just four more delegates are needed for a majority.

But if O’Malley’s bill does pass the House, that doesn’t mean it’s over. Opponents have said they will petition the bill to the ballot.

Raskin said he believes the voters would vote for the repeal, but Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said it would be close. Miller voted against the repeal.

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