By Christopher Zoukis

In a highly controversial decision, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D) commutes the sentences of four death-row prisoners to spend the rest of their lives in prison without the possibility of parole.

An opponent of the death penalty, O’Malley has been fighting to abolish the death penalty for years. “In my judgment, leaving these death sentences in place does not serve the public good of the people of Maryland” O’Malley stated.

As a potential candidate for 2016 in the White House, O’Malley has effectively legalized same-sex marriage, and brought changes in gun control.

While O’Malley wishes to bring “a greater degree of closure for all of the survivors and their families, “some of the victims’ families have “lost faith in the criminal justice system,” stated Mary Moore, 71, who lost her father and stepmother in 1995 to a senseless murder by scissors in the hands of Heath Burch, who was their neighbor. Other relatives pleaded with Governor O’Malley to not change the courts’ decisions to execute the prisoners responsible for the deaths of their loved ones. These family members teamed with prosecutors in opposition to O’Malley’s decision.

Del. Samuel Rosenberg (D-Baltimore) made clear that none of the prisoners would ever be released that are under the commutation by O’Malley.

Maryland became one of six states to ban the death penalty between 2007 and 2013.

72 prisoners were sentenced to death in 2014 but only 35 executed, the lowest in 20 years, as opposed to roughly 300 per year in the 1990’s.

In June, a Washington Post-ABC News poll concluded that Americans are virtually split down the middle when preferring life without parole and the death penalty with 60 percent in favor of the death penalty.

O’Malley will leave office on January 21 this year and he will issue an executive order after January 19 to commute the death sentences, thus wiping out the last trace of the death penalty in Maryland.

Source: www.washingtonpost.com, www.cnn.com

Originally published in Prison Legal News, August 9, 2016.

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).