A commission reviewing capital punishment has voted 13-7 to recommend an end to executions in Maryland, prompting hope among death penalty opponents that the General Assembly could soon abolish the 30-year practice, reports the Baltimore Sun. The Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment found the death penalty carries the “real possibility” of executing innocent people and may be biased against blacks. The final report of the 23-member commission is expected to provide additional ammunition to Gov. Martin O’Malley and other death penalty opponents in their uphill fight to stop state executions. Previous repeal efforts have narrowly failed.
The governor has lobbied for a death-penalty repeal and vowed to sign it if the legislature passes it. The final decision rests with the General Assembly, where a key Senate panel has voted down a death penalty repeal, preventing it from reaching the chamber floor for a vote. While executions in Maryland are infrequent, the issue is being scrutinized here and nationwide because of high-profile exonerations of wrongly convicted death-row inmates. Maryland has had an effective ban on use of its death chamber since December 2006, when the state’s highest court ruled that execution protocols that detail the steps to put a condemned prisoner to death were improperly developed.