Tuesday, 20 February 2007

O'Malley plans to testify on death penalty bill

O'Malley plans to testify on death penalty bill
He will back repeal at legislative hearing in rare appearance for a governor
The Associated Press
Originally published February 20, 2007, 7:02 PM EST

Gov. Martin O'Malley will add his opposition to the death penalty to legislative debates about capital punishment on Wednesday, a rare show of support for a Maryland governor.

O'Malley planned to talk to House and Senate committees considering a repeal of the death penalty in the wake of a court ruling last year that said lethal injection couldn't be carried out until lawmakers clarified the procedure. The ruling puts executions on hold until lawmakers act, so death penalty opponents in the legislature have proposed a repeal.

The governor planned to back a repeal in person. It's a rarity for governors in Maryland to appear personally at bill hearings for proposals not their own.

"He doesn't think that the death penalty is a deterrent or that it is cost-effective and that the money could be better used to combat violent crime," O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said.

Last month, O'Malley told reporters "we waste a lot of money pursuing a policy that doesn't work to reduce crime or to save lives."

Death penalty opponents planned a splashy rally before the Wednesday hearings, bringing in six men from around the nation who have been sentenced to die and then exonerated of the crimes.

Among them is Kirk Bloodsworth, a Maryland man who spent two years on death row and was later released from prison when DNA tests cleared him. Bloodsworth was convicted twice of killing a 9-year-old girl in 1984. He was placed on death row following his first trial, received a new trial and was convicted again, receiving a life sentence instead of capital punishment. He was exonerated by DNA evidence in 1993.

Also attending is Ron Keine of New Mexico, who spent 22 months on that state's death row in the 1970s until another man confessed to the murder Keine was convicted of committing. Earlier this week, the New Mexico House voted to repeal the death penalty, but that bill's final fate is uncertain.

Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, said the exonerated men and O'Malley's personal support could persuade lawmakers to abolish capital punishment.

"It's highly unusual for a governor to testify on a bill," Henderson said. "We're very pleased he's coming. It's a way he's showing this is an issue he thinks is important."

On the Net

Read House Bill 225, Senate Bill 211: http://mlis.state.md.us

Maryland Citizens Against State Executions: http://www.mdcase.org

No comments: