Catholic lawmakers oppose death-penalty repeal
By Tom LoBianco
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
February 10, 2007
ANNAPOLIS -- Key Catholic lawmakers in the General Assembly are splitting with major Catholic groups over an attempt to abolish the death penalty in Maryland.
"I know it's a little inconsistent, but I do feel [the death penalty] is a deterrent," said Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., Baltimore County Democrat and a Catholic.
"Maybe you don't reconcile it until you meet your maker," said Delegate Susan K. McComas, Harford County Republican and a Catholic who is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
The Maryland Catholic Conference is supporting a bill to repeal the death penalty this session, but some of its strongest opposition is coming from Catholic lawmakers.
Mr. Stone will weigh the bill with 10 other members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, including Sen. Alex X. Mooney, Frederick County Republican and the committee's other Catholic.
Mr. Mooney, who supported a death penalty moratorium in 2003 and has been lobbied by death penalty opponents in past sessions, said he will oppose a repeal this session.
Two Baltimore Democrats proposed a repeal after a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling barred executions until the state develops a protocol for administering lethal injections.
Death penalty opponents received a boost when Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat and Catholic, said he would sign a repeal if it reaches his desk.
"It helps give the legislation a head of steam we can build on," said Richard J. Dowling, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference.
Mr. Dowling said he is actively lobbying members of all faiths and remains optimistic that the repeal will move this year.
Mrs. McComas, a ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee that must vet the proposal, has spoken with Mr. Dowling about the death penalty, but said she remains steadfast in her support of capital punishment.
"To take that option off the table really tips the balance in favor of some very terrible people," she said.
Delegate Samuel I. Rosenberg, Baltimore Democrat and lead sponsor of the repeal legislation, said the issue is a "very high priority."
"We are working with every member to get the votes necessary to pass the [legislation]," he said.
While there might be enough support to move the repeal through the House, Senate Republicans said they have enough votes to kill the proposal in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Of the 11 members on the Senate committee, six support the death penalty.
If the repeal passes, a pair of Catholic delegates said they will push to have a referendum vote to reinstate the death penalty.
Delegate Patrick L. McDonough, Baltimore County Republican and a Catholic, said he will work with Delegate Richard K. Impallaria, Baltimore County Republican and a Catholic, to reinstate the death penalty if it is repealed.