The death penalty may be a big issue in this year’s race for governor in Maryland, where Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley has repeatedly fallen short in his attempts to persuade lawmakers to abolish capital punishment, reports the Washington Post. As he nears the end of his term, O’Malley is close to achieving through delay and inertia what he could not change in the law. Three-and-a-half years after the state’s highest court halted use of the death penalty, O’Malley has yet to implement regulations required for executions to resume. Advocates on both sides of the issue strongly doubt that any of Maryland’s five condemned prisoners will be put to death before the governor stands for reelection this fall.
His leading opponent, former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, a Republican, said he plans to make it an issue, accusing O’Malley and other death penalty opponents of “shenanigans” to avoid carrying out the law. “This is the kind of thing that makes people cynical about the criminal justice system,” said Ehrlich, who presided over the state’s last execution, in 2005. “Governor O’Malley took an oath to uphold the law. He’s certainly violating the spirit of it.” The debate in Maryland, one of 35 states with a death penalty statute, comes as capital punishment continues to draw attention. Executions nationwide increased somewhat last year, but the number of new death sentences handed down fell to the lowest total since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, says the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment.