Gov. Martin O'Malley seeks to abolish Md. death penalty

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Maryland's last execution occurred in 2005, when death row inmate Wesley Eugene Baker was put to death under former Gov. Bob Ehrlich, R-Md.

But if the current governor, Democrat Martin O'Malley, has his druthers, Baker's execution may mark the end of capital punishment in the state.

O'Malley announced Tuesday that he will file legislation to repeal the death penalty in Maryland, framing the abolition as a step toward greater justice and a nod to fiscal prudence.

"The death penalty is expensive and it does not work," O'Malley said, "And for that reason alone, I believe we should stop doing it."

O'Malley noted that "If you look over the last 30 or 40 years, the death penalty was on the books, and yet Baltimore still became the most violent and addicted city in America. Having the death penalty on the books did nothing to keep the homicides from rising."

While he conceded that "Good people on both sides of the issue have, in the past, disagreed about the morality of the death penalty," he argued, "I think there is increasingly less disagreement about its effectiveness."

But he did not avoid the dispute over capital punishment's morality, pointing to the results of a 2008 commission in Maryland that found that "for every 8.7 Americans sent to death row, there has been one innocent person exonerated."

O'Malley also cited the commission's finding that "the administration of the death penalty clearly shows racial bias" as evidence of injustice.

The NAACP applauded O'Malley's announcement and argued that the death penalty "does not deter crime and is used almost exclusively on the poor."

"The death penalty squanders millions of law enforcement dollars that could be better spent on victims' services and catching killers still at large," NAACP CEO Ben Jealous said in a statement.

Maryland's legislature would have to approve O'Malley's legislation, though there are some, including some Democrats, who have said they'll resist his repeal effort.

"You need the ultimate penalty there so that if they take a plea, a murderer and a rapist, the plea is life without parole, and they never ever walk the streets again," Democratic state senator James Brochin, who said he would vote against repeal legislation, told the Washington Times. "If you start with life without parole, and that's the worst thing you get, and the state's attorney takes a plea to life, then conceivably a rapist and a murderer can walk out after 25 or 30 years."