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O'Malley Takes On Death Penalty In Maryland Senate Hearing

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Gov. Martin O'Malley testified Thursday in favor of repealing the death penalty.
Matt Bush
Gov. Martin O'Malley testified Thursday in favor of repealing the death penalty.

For a second straight day, Maryland governor Martin O'Malley went before a Senate committee to push a top priority during this year's session of the General Assembly. Today it was the repeal of Maryland's death penalty.

O'Malley has pushed for a repeal long before he became governor and was mayor of Baltimore. He gave a long list of reasons to the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee as to why capital punishment should end in the state, citing cost, racial bias, ineffectiveness as a deterrant and its inaccuracy.

"Between 2001 and 2011, an average of five death row inmates (nationally) were exonerated every year," O'Malley said. "There is no such thing as a fool-proof death penalty, and there is no way to reverse a mistake if we execute an innocent person."

And even while Senate President Mike Miller, a supporter of the death penalty, expects a repeal of it to pass his chamber this year — something that did not happen when the measure last made it to the Senate floor in 2009 — getting to that point is still not a guarantee.

A part of this year's bill includes an appropriation, which means it wouldn't be able to petitioned to a ballot referendum for voters to decide, and Miller wants that changed.

"It's a subterfuge to avoid having it petitioned to referendum," Miller says. "And, although I don't like to see bills petitioned to referendum, I don't believe in trying to thwart the constitution and the laws of the state which allows for petitioning to referendum."

Should there be enough petitions for it to get on the ballot, something Miller also expects will happen, then voters will decide on whether to repeal capital punishment in the fall of 2014.

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