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Maryland's governor tries again to end the death penalty

Maryland Gov.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks at a rally in support of repealing the state's death penalty in Annapolis, Md., on Jan. 15, 2013. (Photo by Patrick Semansky/AP Photo)
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks at a rally in support of repealing the state's death penalty in Annapolis, Md., on Jan. 15, 2013.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Tuesday that he will sponsor legislation to repeal the death penalty in his state. "The death penalty is expensive, and it does not work," O'Malley told reporters at a news conference where he was joined by NAACP head Benjamin Jealous.

O'Malley will try to succeed where similar efforts have failed in the past--namely, his own attempt to repeal the Maryland death penalty in 2009. Unable to pass legislation four years ago, the governor was forced to accept a compromise in which a more restrictive capital punishment law was adopted. This time, O'Malley thinks he can finish what he started. "I believe that there is the will in the Senate, and I also believe that there is the will in the House," he said.

The bill will need 24 votes in the Maryland Senate to pass; the Washington Post has already identified 23 likely votes. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert)--a supporter of the death penalty--has predicted that an O'Malley-sponsored bill would pass. "It's going to be close, though," he said.

Several advocacy groups, including the NAACP, support a repeal. “This is the year that we will end the death penalty in Maryland,” said Jealous. "The death penalty has failed our state. It is broken beyond repair, but it was broken from birth."

msnbc's Lawrence O'Donnell expanded on the "broken from birth" sentiment in a Rewrite on The Last Word last year:

The death penalty is a human system, created by human beings, run by human beings. That means there is human error built into it. A human system is not capable of perfection. Government does nothing flawlessly. Government cannot flawlessly kill people. If you give government the power to kill people, you are giving government the power to make mistakes killing people, and government will make those mistakes.

The Baltimore Sun newspaper expressed solidarity with O'Malley in an editorial Tuesday, urging lawmakers to explain the benefits of ending capital punishment to voters.

"Replacing the death penalty with a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole serves to protect society and render severe punishment on those who commit the worst crimes," they wrote. "It is cost-effective, and it provides finality for the families of murder victims in a way that the death penalty does not. If our lawmakers pass a repeal and explain it in those terms, Maryland's voters will support them."

Maryland currently has five people on death row. There hasn't been an execution since 2006. A moratorium was put in place after a Court of Appeals ruling found that lethal injection protocols were not being adhered to properly in the state.

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