Campaigning in 2002, Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele touted his long-held opposition to capital punishment, the Washington Post recalls. Soon after becoming the first African American elected statewide in Maryland, Steele broke ranks with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and pledged to address a report that found racial bias in the state’s use of the death penalty. Steele vowed to set up a task force, bring all parties to the table and find a way to fix the system. It has not happened. As Maryland prepares to execute its first convict since Steele took office and as a clemency petition waits on the governor’s desk, the lieutenant governor has avoided making any comments on the subject. “He will not talk about the death penalty, period,” said Steele’s press secretary, Regan Hopper.
Steele’s silence has been a sore subject for some advocates who have campaigned against capital punishment in Maryland. Cathy Knepper, an Amnesty International activist, said she “knocked myself senseless” trying to get a meeting with Steele and was disappointed once they finally sat down in February. “He made it very clear he would go along with Ehrlich’s position” on capital punishment, she said. A judge today delayed the execution of Steven Oken indefinitely to hear arguments about Maryland’s lethal injection proecedures, the Baltimore Sun reports.