Maryland makes history by passing bill to abolish death penalty

Now that Maryland lawmakers have passed a bill to end capital punishment in our state – meaning that a conviction for first-degree murder would exclude the possibility of death (while leaving open the possibility of a life sentence) – the Baltimore Sun argues that Gov. Martin O’Malley should cap the occasion by commuting the death sentences of the five men remaining on death row in Maryland.

Of course, as many people in the legal profession know, Gov. O’Malley put a hold on carrying out death sentences in 2005, so no one has been executed in this state since then.

But a future governor could very well execute the five men still on death row, because the law, after Gov. O’Malley signs it, won’t apply retroactively to these men’s sentences. Thus, argues the Baltimore Sun, not commuting these men’s death sentences would “make a mockery of the religious, moral and practical arguments against the death penalty that finally led to its abolition.”

In other words, to execute the men currently on death row wouldn’t make much sense, given what’s happened here in Maryland, the sixth state in recent years to rid itself of the ultimate punishment for violent crimes.

In Maryland, there is (was?) just one crime that qualifies a defendant for the possibility of the death sentence. This is first-degree murder, of the premeditated kind, or in the commission of another offense like a sex crime, among others.

Source: Ending executions in Maryland