MD AG: Legislative Plan Would Nearly ify Capital Punishment


Maryland’s attorney general and Baltimore County’s top prosecutor, both death penalty supporters, want the state General Assembly to abandon what they are calling haphazard and arbitrary restrictions on capital punishment cases approved by the Senate, the Baltimore Sun reports. Attorney General Douglas Gansler said the Senate plan is “ill-prepared, ill-thought-out, awkward and clumsy.” It would limit capital punishment to murder cases where there is biological or DNA evidence, a videotaped confession, or a video recording of the crime. Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger testified that the new guidelines, which proponents say would guard against the execution of an innocent person, needlessly omit crimes where there is convincing evidence of a person’s guilt. “These artificial limits do not make sense in the real world of litigation,” Shellenberger said. Baltimore County is responsible for more than half of death penalty cases since capital punishment was reinstated in 1978.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has been advocating a full repeal of capital punishment, called the Senate plan “significant and needed progress.” The governor and about a dozen death penalty opponents said they have grudgingly accepted the Senate’s restrictions as the only capital punishment reform they could achieve this year. House leaders said their chamber supported a repeal, meaning death penalty limitations would likely be approved. Gansler said the plan “significantly limits the death penalty so as to almost ify it in the state of Maryland.” Shellenberger said he would have a tough time seeking capital punishment and told senators a pending death penalty case would not qualify under the new guidelines.

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