Maryland’s highest court ordered a halt yesterday to executions in the state, ruling that procedures for putting prisoners to death were never submitted for the public review required by law, the Baltimore Sun reports. Under the ruling, state prison officials face the prospect of having to submit the execution protocols to a joint legislative committee. The court said the legislature could exempt the execution procedures from that review process – something one state senator characterized as “very unlikely.”
“One way or another, the legislature is going to need to look at the issue again,” said University of Richmond law Prof. Carl Tobias, “They’re going to want to have hearings, and that could potentially open up the whole death penalty issue for debate.” Executions have been halted in Florida and California amid concerns that lethal injection, as carried out, violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Some death penalty opponents, legal experts, and capital defense attorneys said the court’s decision has paved the way for a debate on the state’s method of putting convicted killers to death.