Maryland backs death penalty review

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The Maryland General Assembly has passed legislation to establish the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, which would study the implementation and execution of the death penalty in that state. The state House approved HB 1111 by a 89-48 vote on Monday, and the Senate later approved SB 614 by a 32-15 vote. The Commission will focus its study on racial and socioeconomic factors in giving death penalty sentences, the risk of executing innocent persons, and the economic differences in administering the death penalty versus imprisoning somebody for life. A complete report by the Commission is to be provided to the General Assembly by December 15.

The Maryland debate over the death penalty has been fueled by a December 2006 Maryland Court of Appeals decision, which held that lethal injection procedures are subject to the state's Administrative Procedures Act and therefore must be developed under the guidance of the Maryland attorney general and a legislative committee, with review and comment by the public. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has been an outspoken critic of Maryland's use of capital punishment, and last year urged the General Assembly ahead of a death penalty repeal vote to abolish the practice because it is "inherently unjust," ineffective as a deterrent and a drain on resources. The repeal failed in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in a 5-5 tie vote. A second repeal bill is currently pending before the Senate, and is expected to again fail.

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