ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Repealing the death penalty. Hearings are taking place in Annapolis for what some say could be the year Maryland ends capital punishment.

Political reporter Pat Warren has more on this emotional debate.

The intent of the bill is to repeal the death penalty and apply the resources saved to the victims’ families.

Governor O’Malley leads a crowd of advocates for repeal of the death penalty in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

“The death penalty does not make us stronger or more secure as a people nor does the death penalty make our laws more effective or just,” O’Malley said.

The governor calls the death penalty ineffective, expensive and inconsistent with our society’s values.

“Our free and diverse republic was not founded on fear or vengeance or retribution,” he said.

But opponents of repeal argue the state needs a more severe penalty than life without parole for prosecuting the most heinous crimes. Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger says he is not discouraged by the political clout behind repeal.

“No, I don’t think we’re at a disadvantage. I think we have a very well-reasoned opinion, ” said Shellenberger.

Harford County State’s Attorney Joseph Cassilly gave WJZ an example:

“Felons with multiple convictions break into the family home, beat the father, rape and murder the mother, rape one of the 11-year-old daughters, douse both of the girls with gasoline, set the house on fire and leave,” he reminded. “Now, you’re going to punish that murderer the same as the 18-year-old that shoots the store clerk in a robbery?”

Supporters of the repeal have not been able to get a vote out of the Judicial Proceedings Committee in the past, but are confident of succeeding this year.

In concluding his testimony Governor O’Malley told the committee, “Capital punishment is expensive, it does not work, and I humbly urge you to replace it with life without parole.”

Repeal has failed to get through Senate in the past, but this year Senate President Mike Miller has said he believes it will pass the Senate, clear the House, and then go to the voters for referendum.

The General Assembly put tighter restrictions on death penalty cases in 2009.


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