While Maryland Gov. Martin OMalley has the authority to release a convict serving a life sentence, he has never used it. Legislators are considering whether to take it away from him, says the Baltimore Sun. The House of Delegates has approved legislation that would free a lifer on the recommendation of the state parole commission if the governor does not file an objection. A Senate committee is expected to vote this week on legislation that would remove him from the process altogether.
The efforts are being led by O’Malley’s fellow Democrats, some of whom are exasperated by his inaction on the 50 cases sitting on his desk. Some Republicans say diminishing the governor’s power simply allows him to avoid a political minefield. Releasing a lifer who goes on to commit more crime could render a politician unelectable. “The governor is now directly accountable,” House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell said. The Republican said changes to the system would “let him have it both ways” — enabling him to set lifers free while making it possible for him to blame the parole commission if the decision proved the wrong one. Lawmakers say their review of the parole process was prompted by O’Malley’s inaction on commission recommendations through his first four-plus years in office.