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Maryland Capital Punishment News
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  1. #1
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    Maryland Capital Punishment News

    Court documents outline lethal injection changes

    Under Delaware's new execution procedure, officials will draw a curtain and ensure that a condemned inmate is unconscious before administering lethal drugs, according to court documents unsealed in a class-action lawsuit by death row inmates.

    Among other things, the new procedure is meant to make sure the inmate is fully sedated before two lethal chemicals are administered.

    Lawyers for the inmates contend among other things that murderer Brian Steckel was put to death in 2005 without the proper anesthesia.

    According to court documents unsealed this week, prison officials will now wait 2 minutes after the injection of the sedative sodium thiopental and a saline flush before proceeding with the execution.

    During the waiting period, a curtain between the execution chamber and the witness room will be drawn while officials determine whether the inmate is unconscious.

    The curtains will then be reopened. If the inmate is unconscious, the lethal chemicals, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, will be injected. If not, a backup intravenous line will be used to administer a new dose of anesthesia. The curtains would then be drawn again while officials assess the inmate before continuing with the execution.

    The efforts to ensure the inmate is unconscious are part of the Department of Correction's effort to win federal court approval of its execution procedures.

    After first asserting that Delaware's procedure was more detailed than a Kentucky protocol upheld in April by the U.S. Supreme Court, officials decided instead to embrace some of Kentucky's methods.

    A mediation hearing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 27. A Department of Correction spokesman declined to comment Tuesday, citing the pending litigation.

    According to a July court filing, state officials identified 11 differences between Delaware's protocol and Kentucky's. The planned changes include adopting the same sequence and quantities of drugs used in Kentucky, as well as the procedure to ensure that the inmate is fully sedated.

    Officials also plan to keep the lights on in the injection room instead of having it darkened, which can increase the risk of error, and to assign one person the sole task of ensuring compliance with the execution protocol and documenting any deviations.

    Attorneys for condemned inmates have argued that Delaware's lethal injection protocol is unconstitutional because it presents a substantial risk of unnecessary pain, amounting to cruel and unusual punishment. In previous filings, they have alleged that there have been dosage errors in more than a third of Delaware's lethal injection executions, including the most recent, that of Steckel.

    According to the plaintiffs, prison officials noticed that the anesthetic being administered to Steckel began leaking into tissue surrounding the needle in his arm. Although the execution team allegedly switched to a second intravenous line to give Steckel another dose of sodium thiopental, DOC records indicate that Steckel did not receive the second dose, according to the plaintiffs.

    The execution of Steckel for the 1994 murder of Sandra Lee Long, who was burned to death in a fire he set after strangling her into unconsciousness and raping and sodomizing her, was so drawn out that Steckel himself wondered aloud why it was taking so long.

    Nearly 3 dozen states use lethal injection. Despite the Supreme Court's April decision upholding the procedure, it remains under legal challenge in several states.

    (source: Axis of Logic)

  2. #2
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    A Maryland Senate committee narrowly voted today to reject Gov. Martin O'Malley's bill to repeal the death penalty, but the measure will likely be debated by the full Senate next week under a rare procedural move.

    The vote by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee was seen as a setback for O'Malley (D), though repeal supporters said they remain hopeful that the bill's fate will be different when all 47 members of the Senate are given a chance to weigh in.

    "I think the prospects are pretty strong," said Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, offering a forecast at odds with that of the powerful Senate president, who has predicted the bill will not pass.

    The committee voted 5 to 5 today on a motion to send the repeal bill to the floor with a favorable report. That was one vote shy of a majority vote needed from the 11-member committee, one of whose members was absent today.

    Normally, such a vote would effectively kill legislation. But as a courtesy to O'Malley, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) repeated today that he would allow some debate on the Senate floor next week.

    That debate is likely to come on a motion to replace the committee's "unfavorable" recommendation with a "favorable" recommendation. The motion would need the support of a majority of the chamber's members, or 24 senators. Even if the bill crosses that procedural hurdle, it could face a filibuster, further complicating passage.

    Arguments prior to the committee vote were familiar on an issue that has been hotly debated in Annapolis since O'Malley took office in 2007. The governor has made abolishing capital punishment a priority this year.

    Repeal supporters argued that the death penalty is not a deterrent to violent crime, is costly and risks taking an innocent life. Opponents raised the specter of a prisoner, already serving a life sentence, who repeatedly kills others in prison with abandon.

    That prospect "keeps haunting me," said Sen. Norman Stone (D-Baltimore County). "He or she can become the designated killer in prison."

    The committee also rejected an amendment that would allow the death penalty to be imposed only in the cases of people who kill in prison.

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    Senators turn away repeal of death penalty in Md.
    Lawmakers vote instead to restrict when capital punishment can be used

    Baltimore County senators rebuffed an effort to abolish Maryland's death penalty yesterday, persuading lawmakers instead to restrict when capital punishment can be used.

    The Senate's first full debate on the death penalty in more than three decades was cut short when amendments stripped the word repeal out of a repeal initiative, prompting confusion on the floor. Exasperated senators rose one after another to say that they weren't sure what they were voting on.

    "What we are getting is a real mess," said Sen. Delores G. Kelley, a Baltimore County Democrat. Added Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, a Baltimore Democrat and a senator for 14 years: "Very obviously, this is not one of the high points in the Senate."

    Debate was to resume this morning. There is a pile of amendments for senators to sort through, followed by a preliminary vote on the amended plan.

    Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller had predicted such disorder. Earlier in the day, death penalty opponents used a rare procedural move to resurrect repeal legislation even though a Senate committee had killed the measure last week. Miller, a death penalty supporter who typically keeps tight control over the Senate, said he allowed the unusual maneuver as a courtesy to Gov. Martin O'Malley, a fellow Democrat who wants repeal.

    Miller noted a wave of e-mail messages by O'Malley and the governor's use of Democratic Party resources to further the repeal effort. "I don't think any previous governor has politicized the death penalty in such a manner," Miller said.

    In response, O'Malley said that he was proud of having fostered "civil debate" on death penalty repeal. "I don't think any senator I've met with would tell you that I've been twisting arms or breaking legs," he said.

    The governor said restrictions on the death penalty such as those approved yesterday were a "move forward" and an "improvement," though he held out hope that repeal might be considered again this morning.

    Many senators said they have heard from both Miller and O'Malley, who were pulling them in opposite directions, and have fielded dozens of calls from activists and residents. A slim majority of Marylanders support capital punishment, opinion polls show.

    Sen. Bobby A. Zirkin, who was considered a potential swing vote, said he had received a phone call Monday from Elie Wiesel, a prominent writer, death penalty opponent and Holocaust survivor.

    Since 1978, when Maryland reinstated capital punishment, the state has executed five convicted murderers. Five men are on death row. Last year, O'Malley asked former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti to lead a study of capital punishment in Maryland. The commission recommended abolishing the death penalty, noting the costs involved, the potential of executing an innocent person, and racial and geographic disparity in its use.

    Baltimore County prosecutors have been the most aggressive in the state in seeking the death penalty, accounting for 45 percent of the death sentences but only 12 percent of eligible murder cases from 1978 to 1999, a 2003 state-funded study found.

    Yesterday, two Democratic senators from that county changed the nature of the death penalty debate, quickly silencing discussion of repeal.

    By a 25-21 vote, the 47-member Senate adopted Sen. James Brochin's amendment to reject repeal and instead prohibit the death penalty in cases where there is only eyewitness testimony. Then, Zirkin proposed restricting the death penalty to murder cases in which there is conclusive DNA evidence, video evidence or a videotaped voluntary confession.

    Buoyed by support from some death penalty opponents who recognized that the repeal effort had failed, Zirkin's amendment passed easily.

    "This may be the high-water mark of what can be achieved this year," Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat and death penalty opponent who heads the Judicial Proceedings Committee, said later.

    It was clear that some senators might not have understood the implications of the amendments from Baltimore County.

    Sen. John C. Astle, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, and Sen. Rona E. Kramer, a Montgomery County Democrat, voted yesterday morning to move forward with repeal. Both then voted to adopt Brochin's amendment. Astle said afterward that he planned to change his vote on the Brochin amendment. Asked whether she was confused about what Brochin's amendment would do, Kramer said, "Right now, I'm not going to discuss it."

    Jane Henderson, director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, said it took her a moment to realize what Brochin's amendment had done. "It was quite a comedy of errors," she said. "I don't hold out much hope that they know what they're doing."

    Brochin said he did not intend to confuse the Senate and that he believed that the lawmakers who voted in favor of his amendment understood its effect. "My intention was to make current law into a stronger statute," he said. "It was clear to me."

    Yesterday morning, death penalty opponents had cheered the unusual move to revive O'Malley's failed repeal bill.

    In a 25-22 vote that surprised leading Democrats, senators set aside the Judicial Proceedings Committee's decision to kill the repeal bill. Miller appeared visibly uncomfortable yesterday with what was happening and voted against the move to circumvent the committee report. He had told lawmakers the night before, "We shouldn't be doing this."

    The motion does not appear in the Senate rule book and undermines the committee system and the influence of Miller, who makes committee assignments.

    "From this day on, we're not going to do it again," Miller said several times from the podium.

    During a break in the Senate lounge, Sen. Richard F. Colburn, an Eastern Shore Republican, decried the move as unleashing a "Pandora's box" of legislative disorder. Then, to make his point on the floor, Colburn asked the chamber to resurrect a bill of his that had been rejected by the Judicial Proceedings Committee. Miller refused to allow Colburn's motion to advance.

    Later, Sen. E.J. Pipkin, an Eastern Shore Republican, called the debate "a live experiment" in why the Senate should not have taken up repeal after the committee had killed it.

    Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, the Baltimore Democrat who sponsored the death penalty repeal measure, compared the procedural vote to the righteous "act of treason" practiced by signers of the Declaration of Independence. "This is not about process and procedure," Gladden said. "It is about principle."

    Sen. Alex X. Mooney, a Republican representing Frederick and Washington counties, broke ranks with his party to vote in favor of resurrecting the repeal legislation, which he had voted against in committee. He cast the deciding vote that paved the way for last night's debate.

    "I have always said and believed that this should come to the Senate floor," Mooney said. "If there's a final vote in the full chamber, whether it passes or fails, at least it is a final vote."

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    Senate panel rejects change in death-penalty criteria

    It appears that Maryland lawmakers this year will not be making it easier for prosecutors to pursue the death penalty.

    The General Assembly revised the death penalty statute last year to require that prosecutors have DNA evidence, a videotaped confession by the killer or a video recording of the crime before filing capital murder charges. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and other legislators want fingerprints and still photographs to be added to the list of acceptable evidence.

    But the leader of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, Montgomery County Sen. Brian E. Frosh, added language to make it tougher for prosecutors to convince a jury that a criminal deserves to be executed. Frosh sought to raise the standard of proof when juries weigh aggravating factors versus mitigating circumstances.

    Sen. James Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat who helped defeat Gov. Martin O'Malley's effort last year to repeal the death penalty, said Frosh's maneuver and the committee's rejection of it show that "what we struck last year is probably the best compromise we're ever going to get."


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    Death row moves to western Md.

    Maryland's death row has moved.

    Corrections officials say the state's 5 death row inmates were taken this week from Baltimore to western Maryland. They'll now be housed at the North Branch Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in Cresaptown.

    Death row had been located at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, formerly known as Supermax, since it opened in 1988. That prison is now used to house inmates in transit and awaiting court appearances.

    The state's execution chamber remains in Baltimore.

    5 men have been executed since Maryland reinstated the death penalty in 1978, most recently in 2005. The state has had a de facto moratorium on capital punishment since late 2006 because its lethal injection protocols are under review.

    (source: Washington Examiner)

    Under cloak of secrecy, 5 condemned men are moved from Baltimore to Cumberland prison

    The 5 men on Maryland's death row were quietly moved this week from the hulking Baltimore prison once known as Supermax to a Western Maryland facility hailed recently as one of the most technologically advanced maximum-security prisons in the United States.

    The transfer to the North Branch Correctional Institution near Cumberland was carried out amid such secrecy that even now state prison officials won't give any details — not even which day the condemned men were moved.

    "For security purposes, I'm not able to speak about that," said Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. "I myself don't even know when it happened; they wouldn't tell me."

    Death penalty foes questioned the motivation behind moving the men to a rural part of the state, a step that had been planned for years. "I think it's somewhat symbolic that they put the death penalty out of people's minds," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.

    "Even though the fiction is you go to death row and get executed, the reality is that's where you spend your life in prison," said Dieter, whose group opposes capital punishment. "Death row is already a pretty isolated place to live. Then you take it out of the area where you're from, and it exacerbates the punishment."

    The state's execution chamber will remain in Baltimore at the prison's Metropolitan Transition Center hospital. The state has executed 5 inmates since capital punishment was reinstated in 1978.

    The move comes in an election year when capital punishment could emerge as an issue in the governor's race. Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, tried unsuccessfully to repeal Maryland's death penalty law but did win tighter restrictions on when it can be used. Two executions were carried out during the single gubernatorial term of his Republican predecessor and current challenger, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

    Maryland's death penalty has been on hold since the Court of Appeals ruled in December 2006 that executions could not continue until a regulatory committee of the legislature adopted lethal injection protocols. That hasn't happened, creating a de facto moratorium on state executions.

    Maryland has one of the smallest death rows of the 35 states that have capital punishment. Only South Dakota, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming and New Hampshire have fewer condemned inmates, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

    The death row relocation has been in the works since 2004. That year, Mary Ann Saar, then the public safety and corrections chief, said the state hoped to move death row inmates to Allegany County within two years. At the time, the North Branch Correctional Institute was being expanded. Vernarelli said he did not know why the move took years longer than once envisioned.

    Since 2008, North Branch, which cost more than $175 million to build, has been a fully operational maximum-security prison harboring only long-term inmates. Unlike many prisons, which include various levels of security, it accepts only maximum-security prisoners. Five hundred cameras line the prison walls to deter violence or escape attempts.

    Using an "inverse fortress" design, with cells ringing a command center, North Branch was the most technologically advanced maximum-security prison at the time of its construction, according to a 2005 episode of the television series "Megastructures" on the National Geographic Channel.

    At North Branch, death row inmates are being housed in a separate wing and are segregated from other inmates. Meals are taken to their unit.

    "It does point up how these 5 people are going to be given special — not preferable — treatment, tighter security," Dieter said. He noted that the 150 miles between Baltimore and North Branch will impose a burden on the families and lawyers of the condemned — a factor unlikely to garner sympathy among capital punishment supporters. 3 of the 5 death row inmates were convicted of crimes in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

    Vernarelli said state corrections chief Mike Stouffer spoke with Western Maryland's state legislative delegation before the move.

    The recently vacated death row, which opened in the late 1980s, was in Supermax. Now known as the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, it is being converted to a temporary "housing hub" for state inmates in transit for court appearances or medical treatment in Baltimore. Also, the U.S. Marshals Service has contracted to use 240 beds for pretrial federal detainees.

    A longtime death penalty opponent, O'Malley has said Maryland should abolish capital punishment because of flaws in the criminal justice system exposed in states around the country. He came up short in a bid to repeal the punishment during the 2009 General Assembly session.

    The legislature met him part way, revising the law to require prosecutors to have DNA evidence, a video recording of the crime or a videotaped confession before filing capital murder charges. O'Malley accepted the restrictions as the best he could accomplish.

    Ehrlich has said he plans to raise capital punishment as a campaign issue, noting that O'Malley has never signed an execution warrant. Both of Maryland's executions during the past decade came while Ehrlich was governor.

    In June 2004, Steven Oken was put to death for the torture, rape and murder of White Marsh newlywed Dawn Marie Garvin in 1991. In December 2005, Wesley E. Baker was executed, 13 years after he was convicted of murdering a woman on a shopping trip to a Baltimore County mall with her grandchildren.


    Maryland's death row inmates

    Vernon Evans, sentenced May 1984 in Baltimore County

    Anthony Grandison, sentenced June 1984 in Baltimore County

    John Booth-el, sentenced 1984 in Baltimore City

    Heath Burch, sentenced April 1996 in Prince George's County

    Jody Miles, sentenced March 1998 in Wicomico County

    (source: Baltimore Sun)

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    Md. weighs allowing inmates' own clergy at death

    Maryland is considering becoming one of the few states to allow condemned inmates to choose a clergy member not employed by the state to be in the execution chamber when they die.

    Corrections officials must balance the sensitive issues of security during one of the gravest tasks undertaken by the state and religious freedom during a condemned person's final moments.

    The measure is being considered by Maryland legislators at a time when the death penalty is essentially on hold there after a court found that the way the state lethally injected its inmates wasn't properly approved.

    Most of the 35 states with capital punishment allow an inmate to meet with clergy of their choice in the hours before an execution, but the majority of them require spiritual advisers to watch the execution from an adjoining room. Several states, including Maryland, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas, allow an official prison chaplain to be in the room during the execution.

    Maryland based its new proposal on a similar policy Oklahoma put in place in 2004, although officials there have changed their regulations since Maryland learned about them. Oklahoma has not allowed any clergy in the death chamber for two or three years, since an inmate's religious adviser showed up wearing an ankle-monitoring device because he was on probation, said Jerry Massie, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

    "We had an outside chaplain in there once that created a security issue, so we just decided not to have any chaplains in there," Massie said, noting that clergy can observe from another room.

    Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said Maryland's proposal has safeguards, chiefly a requirement that the corrections commissioner must approve the inmate's choice.

    "The security policies in the proposed regulations, we think, will be more than adequate to handle any similar situation," Binetti said.

    Chaplain Gary Friedman, a spokesman for the American Correctional Chaplains Association, recalled intervening on behalf of a Jewish death row inmate in Texas who wanted to arrange for rabbi to be with him in the chamber about 10 years ago. At first, Friedman said, Texas officials were not going to allow a rabbi who worked for the state corrections department to attend, saying the duty had to be performed by an assigned department chaplain.

    "We had to go all the way to the governor's office," Friedman said, before Texas officials relented in the case of Max Soffar, who is still on death row.

    Florida does not allow a chaplain in the execution chamber, but the state does allow an inmate to choose clergy to be among witnesses. The sensitivity of the matter was evident during Martin Grossman's execution in February. Rabbi Menachem Katz, who had been Grossman's spiritual adviser for 15 years, was allowed to be with Grossman on the afternoon before his execution. But Katz said he could only be with him as long as non-Jewish chaplains employed by the state were present.

    "I felt we needed privacy, and they refused," Katz said.

    Friedman said that's an example of how prison systems could be more sensitive.

    "Sometimes, it's the nature of the beast that security trumps humanity," Friedman said.

    The proposed change in Maryland was included as part of protocols submitted in May to a legislative panel for review. The administration of Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Catholic who opposes the death penalty, proposed the changes reluctantly, after previous attempts to repeal capital punishment failed in the General Assembly.

    Maryland's death penalty has been on hold since December 2006, when the state's highest court ruled lethal injection protocols weren't reviewed by the legislative panel as required. It's unclear when executions could resume in Maryland, where the co-chairs of the legislative panel also oppose capital punishment.

    Maryland began allowing a prison chaplain to be in the chamber in 2004, when the state carried out its first death sentence in six years. Randy Watson, assistant correction commissioner, said the change was made after corrections officials studied practices in Oklahoma, where a prison chaplain was allowed in the chamber at the time.

    "They just felt that that helped keep the condemned inmate calm, and it did not detract from the process," Watson said.

    Maryland corrections officials decided to propose allowing the inmate to choose the clergy member when the department submitted the new protocols to comply with the 2006 court ruling. Corrections officials no longer saw the need of any restriction, as long as the commissioner approved the person after a background check and the choice didn't compromise security, Watson said.

    A prison chaplain, a Catholic priest, was inside the chamber during the 2004 execution of Steven Oken, who was Jewish. One of two rabbis allowed to be witnesses told reporters just before Oken was put to death that he had met with Oken for about 90 minutes, but the rabbi expressed disappointment that he was not allowed to be by Oken's side at the very end.

    Watson said that while a Jewish chaplain who worked for the state was available, Oken had requested the priest to be present.

    Mississippi is one of the few states that allows an inmate to choose up to two clergy members who can be in the execution chamber. Kansas allows an inmate to choose a spiritual adviser to be in the execution chamber, but Kansas has not had an execution since capital punishment was put back on the books there in 1994.

    In Texas, a prison chaplain is present in the chamber. The clergyman normally rests a hand on the inmate's leg to offer comfort and prays while the lethal injection is taking place. A spiritual adviser chosen by the inmate can watch through a window with other witnesses.

    But most states do not allow clergy into the execution chamber.

    In Virginia, for example, chosen clergy can be with an inmate in a holding cell until the execution, but they can only observe the procedure from a witness booth. Pennsylvania allows clergy to walk with an inmate to the execution chamber before going to the area reserved for witnesses.


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    Death penalty in limbo, Sen. pres. calls for action

    Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said this morning that he will call for a committee vote on death penalty regulations that have been in limbo for more than a year, effectively giving the state a moratorium on capital punishment.

    Earlier this week, Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George's County Democrat and death penalty opponent, told WBAL's Robert Lang that his administrative panel of senators and delegates needs more time to review regulations that were rewritten by the prison system after being struck down in 2006 by the state's highest court.

    Pinsky told WBAL that there are unanswered questions about the lethal injection procedure including, " the mixture of the (lethal injection) chemicals and assurances that (the chemicals) would do what it is intended to do."

    But Pinsky did not bring the issue to a vote by the entire Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review, of which he is co-chair with Del. Anne Healy, a Prince George's Democrat. (Read the entire list of committee members after the jump.)

    Miller, a Democrat who favors limited use of the death penalty, said it's only fair to "have an up or down vote" on the regulations, and he predicted Pinsky would be amenable to that plan.

    The state has not executed anyone since December 2005. In 2009, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley pushed for a full repeal of the death penalty. The Senate rejected that idea, instead placing more stringent rules on when prosecutors can seek capital punishment.

    AELR committee members:

    Sen. David Brinkley, Republican
    Sen. James Brochin, Democrat
    Sen. Richard Colburn, Republican
    Sen. Jennie Forehand, Democrat
    Sen. Lisa Gladden, Democrat
    Sen. Allan Kittleman, Republican
    Sen. Richard Madaleno, Democrat
    Sen. Norman Stone, Democrat
    Sen. Bobby Zirkin, Democrat

    Del. Eric Bromwell, Democrat
    Del. Adelaide Eckardt, Republican
    Del. Brian Feldman, Democrat
    Del. Keith Haynes, Democrat
    Del. Dan Morhaim, Democrat
    Del. Justin Ross, Democrat
    Del. Michael Smigiel, Republican
    Del. Paul Stull, Republican


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    Md. again looking at death penalty

    Maryland lawmakers, who during Gov. Martin O'Malley's first term repeatedly debated whether to abolish the death penalty, are wrestling with a far different proposition at the outset of his second: whether to start using it again.

    Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said he will push for action in coming weeks on regulations needed to resume executions in the state.

    Use of the death penalty was halted by the state's highest court in December 2006, the month before O'Malley (D) took office, pending new regulations from the administration spelling out procedures for lethal injection and other issues.

    O'Malley instead lobbied the legislature to repeal capital punishment, waiting until 2009 - after those efforts fell short for a third year in a row - to propose new regulations. A legislative review panel headed by two Democrats opposed to capital punishment has yet to take action on the proposal, which they say is flawed.

    "To allow this to continue to sit in the drawer is to make a mockery of the democratic and legislative process," Miller, a capital punishment supporter, said in an interview last week. "We swear to uphold the law of the state, and the death penalty is the law."

    O'Malley said he, too, thinks the legislative panel "should do something one way or another on this" and acknowledged it is possible that executions could resume during his second four-year term, which starts Wednesday.

    The governor, however, said he thinks the death penalty will eventually be repealed and is still assessing whether it makes sense to take another run at doing that in the current 90-day legislative session.

    "The line of history sometimes zigs and zags," O'Malley said in an interview. "I think the big picture is our country is moving away from the death penalty, and I think as time goes on, more and more states will realize that it's not an effective tool for reducing violent crime or homicides. It's not a deterrent, it's very, very expensive, and the dollars could be used for other things, and it's ultimately inconsistent with the sort of nation we aspire to be."

    As governor, O'Malley also has clemency power that would allow him to commute the sentences of any of the five inmates on Maryland's death row to life in prison - something he said he would consider on a case-by-case basis if the regulations are adopted.

    Unlike most high-profile matters that come before the legislature, the death penalty regulations are being considered by a single committee made up of 10 delegates and 10 senators.

    Any action by the panel does not need approval of the House or Senate, and technically the panel's role is only advisory. If he wanted to, O'Malley could put the recommendations in place over the panel's objections.

    To date, O'Malley has not done so, and in the interview, he gave no indication that he would.

    Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's), one of the panel's co-chairmen, said he does not sense the same urgency to act as Miller.

    "Am I in a hurry to get it resolved? No, I'm not," Pinsky said.

    Pinsky said officials at the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which drafted the regulations, have done little to address concerns he and others have raised about their substance.

    Among the objections cited by death penalty opponents: The regulations require no medical qualifications for execution team members; there are no limits on how much time the team can take to find a prisoner's vein; and there are no steps to ensure that a prisoner is unconscious before a painful paralyzing agent is injected.

    Del. Anne Healey (D-Prince George's), the other co-chairman of the panel - the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review - said she had hoped the O'Malley administration would have reworked the regulations by now to reflect such concerns.

    The proposed rules that were issued in July 2009 expired a year later. O'Malley's corrections department proposed a second set of regulations in November that were nearly identical to the previous offer.

    Healey said she is hopeful that her panel can act on the regulations by next month, but she did not indicate what the outcome might be.

    Panel members are thought to be closely split on the issue of the death penalty itself, which doesn't necessarily indicate how they would vote on regulations meant to facilitate its use.

    Senate Minority Whip David R. Brinkley (R-Frederick) said he is not sure where the votes would fall, but he said it is clear that Pinsky and other death penalty opponents are doing whatever they can to delay the issue.

    "Any mechanism that can be used to block this is being utilized," Brinkley said.

    Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, said she thinks a majority of House and Senate members would support legislation to repeal the death penalty.

    But Henderson acknowledged that a repeal bill has a difficult path this year, largely because of the makeup of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, where it has been stuck in the past.

    On the committee, Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) is considered the swing vote.

    Although the legislature stopped short of repealing the death penalty in 2009, it passed a bill tightening evidentiary standards in capital cases.

    To be eligible for the death penalty, there must be biological or DNA evidence, a videotaped confession or a videotape linking the defendant to the crime. If the standards are not met, prosecutors can seek life without parole.

    Zirkin, who helped craft the compromise, said in an interview last week that he sees no reason to revisit that.

    "I think what we did is very good," he said. "I think what we did should be a model for other states."

    As far as he's concerned, the regulations to carry out the death penalty should be implemented, Zirkin said. "The state has the death penalty," he said.


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    Hearing on Md. death penalty rules set next month

    Maryland lawmakers have scheduled a hearing on proposed death penalty regulations, a long-delayed step along the way to the possible resumption of executions in the state.

    Use of the death penalty was halted by the state's highest court in December 2006, a month before Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) took office, pending new regulations from the administration spelling out procedures for lethal injection and other issues.

    O'Malley instead lobbied the legislature to repeal capital punishment, waiting until 2009 -- after those efforts fell short for a third year in a row -- to propose new regulations.

    A legislative review panel headed by two Democrats opposed to capital punishment has now scheduled a hearing on the regulations on Feb. 16. Several powerful lawmakers, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) have urged the panel -- known as the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review -- to act.

    Any action by the review panel does not need approval of the House or Senate, and technically the panel's role is only advisory. If he wanted to, O'Malley could put the recommendations in place over the panel's objections.

    O'Malley has said he thinks it is important for the legislature to weigh in, however.

    There are five inmates on death row in Maryland.

  10. #10
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Halt in production of lethal drug to be issue in Md. death penalty deliberations

    A new wrinkle has emerged in Maryland's deliberations over resuming the use of the death penalty: Word that the U.S. company that makes a drug used in lethal injections is halting its production.

    A legislative review panel has scheduled a Feb. 16 hearing on regulations developed by the O'Malley administration that would allow executions to resume. There has been an effective moratorium on capital punishment in Maryland since December 2006, when the state's highest court ruled that new regulations were needed.

    The regulations proposed by O'Malley's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services include multiple references to the drug in question, sodium thiopental, which is also known as sodium pentothal.

    Shortages of the drug made by Hospira of Lake Forest, Ill., have been an issue in some states that use it. And any supply still on hand in Maryland -- which last executed a prisoner in 2005 -- has since expired, according to a corrections department spokesperson.

    Pinsky mug.jpg"I think this throws the whole thing into reverse," said Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's), a co-chairman of the legislative review panel.

    Some lawmakers have accused Pinsky and other death penalty opponents of deliberately delaying the resumption of executions.

    For the first three years of his first term, Gov. Martin O'Malley, who also opposes capital punishment, unsuccessfully lobbied the legislature to abolish the death penalty rather than resume its use. More recently, O'Malley has encouraged the review panel to act on the proposed regulations.

    Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the corrections department, said it is too soon to know how Hospira's decision will effect Maryland's regulations. But Binetti said he expects it to be among the issued discussion Feb. 16.

    If the department decides to develop new procedures, using a different drug, it would have to issue new regulations that would further delay the process.

    "The agency has some tough thinking to do, and I think the governor is going to have to give them some direction," Pinsky said.


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