By Christopher Zoukis

On May 2, 2013, Maryland became the sixth state in six years to abolish the death penalty, and the 18th state – along with the District of Columbia – that has rejected capital punishment. Maryland is the first Southern state to forgo executions in nearly half a century, joining West Virginia, with its 1964 repeal, as the only states below the Mason-Dixon Line without capital punishment on the books. 

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who has been fighting the state’s death penalty with legislative efforts since 2007, and who signed the repeal bill, said in a press release, “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.” He added, “Furthermore, there is no way to reverse a mistake if an innocent person is put to death.”

The death penalty repeal, which goes into effect on October 1, 2013, does not explicitly apply to the five men currently on Maryland’s death row. The state’s last execution took place in 2005 when Governor Robert Ehrlich was in office. Present law allows the governor to commute the condemned prisoners’ sentences to life without parole, and O’Malley has said he will consider doing so on a case-by-case basis.

Kirk Bloodsworth, a Maryland man who was the first person in the U.S. to be freed from death row based on DNA evidence, attended the signing ceremony for the repeal bill. “Twenty-eight years ago I was sitting in a death row cell, and it became clear to me that we could execute an innocent man,” he stated. Bloodsworth, who was wrongly sentenced to death for the murder of a 9-year-old girl, said at a news conference, “No innocent person will ever be executed in this state again.”

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