Death Penalty Supporters Petition For A Referendum On Repeal

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—Opponents of the state’s death penalty repeal rise to challenge the new law at the polls.

Political reporter Pat Warren reports it was not unexpected, but the decision to petition comes late enough that it could be hard for petitioners to meet their first deadline.

Kurt Bloodsworth, found innocent after spending two years on death row, celebrated replacing death with life without parole.

“It’s a happy day,” he said.

But Lois Burton, whose son was murdered by John Thanos, who was later executed in Maryland, is disappointed.

“Very disappointed that the system once again has failed us,” Burton said.

After the bill signing Thursday, Bloodsworth told WJZ: “One thing’s for sure, nobody, by the stroke of this pen, nobody will be executed and innocent in this state.”

But voters may have to sign off on it first.

Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger and MDPetitions.com are gathering signatures to put the death penalty on the 2014 ballot.

“Aurora, Colo.; Virginia Tech, Newtown, Conn.; and of course now recently at the Boston Marathon and you have to ask yourself ‘What happens if one of those heinous crimes happens here in Maryland and we don’t have the appropriate punishment available to seek justice in those cases?’” Shellenberger said at a news conference in Baltimore on Friday.

State Senator James Brochin (D-Baltimore County), an opponent of repeal, says life without parole as the ultimate punishment leaves only life with the possibility of parole as a plea bargain.

“Really? I mean it’s unthinkable. Even if the person doesn’t get parole, to put the victim’s family through that trauma because we didn’t have the ultimate penalty on the books is absolutely unacceptable to me,” Brochin said.

And to some victims’ families as well.

“To think that my taxpaying dollars would have kept Thanos in jail with warm food and clothes and paying by my money, I have a real problem with that one,” Burton said.

Others who have that problem are expected to sign the petition.

Opponents of the repeal need more than 17,000 signatures by May 31 to clear their first hurdle.

Maryland Citizens Against State Executions says it is ready for a possible referendum and is confident the public will support replacing the death penalty with life without parole.

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