The Maryland General Assembly passed a repeal of the death penalty in the state in March.
On Thursday Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed a bill passed earlier this year by the General Assembly that does away with capital punishment in the state. With his signature, Maryland becomes the sixth state in as many years to repeal the death penalty, and once the legislation takes effect in October, 18 states across the nation will have opted out of its use.
"With the legislation signed today, Maryland has effectively eliminated a policy that is proven not to work. Evidence shows that the death penalty is not a deterrent, it cannot be administered without racial bias, and it costs three times as much as life in prison without parole. Furthermore, there is no way to reverse a mistake if an innocent person is put to death," said O'Malley's office in a statement announcing the bill's signing.
Despite the bill's passage, five men still remain on death row in the state, and they could still be executed if they exhaust all their appeals and O'Malley does not exercise his right to commute their sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole. O'Malley has said he will consider them on a case-by-case basis. The state's last execution took place in 2005, during Republican governor Bob Ehrlich's administration.
Death penalty supporters are not giving up, though, and have scheduled an announcement in Baltimore today. Republican Delegate Neil Parrott and Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger will speak the press conference. Parrott is chairman of MDPetitions.com, a website that has helped get other issues passed by the General Assembly in front of voters via referendum. He has already sent language for a potential petition on the death penalty to the state board of elections so it can check it. If he chooses to move forward, he would have to gather over 55,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot.