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Maryland Death Penalty Opponents Push For Repeal

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Repeal Death Penalty
Derek Valcourt 370x278 Derek Valcourt
Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Should Maryland’s capital punishment live or die? That promises to be one of the big battles among lawmakers this year in Annapolis.

Derek Valcourt has more on the fight shaping up to repeal the death penalty.

In the past a repeal bill has never made it out of a Senate committee, but this year, supporters expect that will change.

Convicted killer Wesley Baker’s 2005 execution by lethal injection was the last time Maryland imposed the death penalty.

Since then, it’s been on hold until lawmakers formally approve the procedures used by executioners, but that hasn’t stopped the call for its total repeal

Year after year in Annapolis, bills to abolish the death penalty have died in committee, but this year death penalty opponents said momentum is on their side after the Senate president indicated that he’ll make sure a vote gets on the floor if there’s enough support to pass a repeal.

“We are going to be extremely aggressive this year,” said NAACP President Benjamin Jealous.

NAACP leaders vowed to make sure the votes are there after a closed door meeting with a supportive Governor Martin O’Malley. That is one vote they won’t need to work for.

“It’s time to end the death penalty,” said Del. Sandy Rosenberg.

Rosenburg argues executions are not a deterrent, that they’re unfairly imposed by race and jurisdiction. He said lengthy appeals are too costly and there are still chances for mistakes. Rosenburg pointed to former death row inmate Kirk Bloodsworth who was released after he was exonerated by DNA.

“There is not an intensity of opposition to making this change in our laws,” said Rosenberg.

Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger is among those promising to fight a repeal. He argues Maryland’s death penalty is already one of the most restrictive in the country.

“Even if it’s infrequently used, what do we tell people if we have the kind of mass murder like they had up in Connecticut? And we have to look at the whole country and say we can’t do anything more to this defendant than give him life in prison,” said Shellenberger.

Del. Pat McDonough said he is going to make a strong push to allow the death penalty in cases of mass murder, where someone kills at least four people with the intent to kill more.

Death penalty opponents believe they can defeat that measure as well.

Lawmakers also expect gun control legislation will be another hot topic this session.

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