Maryland Death Penalty News

Started by Jeff1857, March 25, 2008, 12:18:41 AM

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March 25, 2008, 12:18:41 AM Last Edit: May 24, 2008, 12:30:17 AM by Jeff1857
The House of Delegates voted today to create a commission to study capital punishment in Maryland, after efforts to repeal the death penalty failed for a second straight year.

The House voted 89-48 to form the commission, which would study racial, jurisdictional and economic disparities in how the death penalty has been administered.

The Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment also would study the risk of innocent people being executed and compare the costs of executing someone with the expense of imprisoning someone for life without parole.

The Senate was scheduled to vote on a similar bill tonight.

The commission would issue a report on its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by Dec. 15.

Republicans, citing Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's opposition to capital punishment, criticized the idea, saying the commission was being set up to recommend ending the death penalty. Del. Christopher Shank, R-Washington, described the proposal as "a textbook model on how to repeal the death penalty in your state."

"Ladies and gentlemen, the verdict is already in before the jury has even gone out," Shank said. "This bill is about the repeal of the death penalty, and I would suggest a 'no' vote."

But Del. Sandy Rosenberg, D-Baltimore, said the bill was carefully amended to make sure the commission will be "open to discussion and consideration."

"We feel as a committee that we have amended the bill sufficiently so this bill, as it now stands, creates a credible task force -- one that will objectively look at the issues," Rosenberg said.

Maryland currently has a de facto moratorium in place against capital punishment, because of a ruling in late 2006 by the state's highest court. The court ruled the state's protocol for the lethal injection procedure was implemented without proper approval by a legislative committee. Executions can't resume until the O'Malley administration submits new rules for the committee to approve.

In 2003, University of Maryland criminologist Raymond Paternoster released a study that found black defendants who killed whites were statistically most likely to be charged with capital murder and sentenced to death in Maryland. Black defendants whose victims were white were 2 1/2 times more likely to be sentenced to death than white defendants with white victims, according to the study.

Maryland currently has five men on death row. Only five inmates have been executed since Maryland reinstated the death penalty in 1978. Wesley Baker, who was put to death in December 2005, was the last person to be executed in Maryland.

Read House Bill 1111:

Read Senate Bill 0614:


I wonder what counties/cities were used for that study which said that blacks were more likely to get the dp.  There are many areas close to the nation's capital where the  population is mostly black, therefore the high numbers of black people incarcerated is simply due to the statistical high numbers of them in the population!  Also, what kind of make-up were the juries in these cases?  There are so many ways to skew statistics that I don't buy it.

I am sick of my tax dollars being wasted.  If the population of Maryland doesn't want the DP to be rescinded, then why all the money being thrown away on worthless studies? 

If you kill, be prepared to pay the consequences.  Period.


Maryland will study the death penalty and whether to repeal it.

The legislature has agreed to a bill to set up a panel to review capital punishment and whether it should be repealed.

The proposal came after it became apparent earlier this year that lawmakers were not going to abolish capital punishment.

The topic has been studied extensively before, but lawmakers approved a fresh study to report back to them any recommendations on doing away with it.

Maryland currently has a de facto moratorium against capital punishment because legislators have not approved a procedure for it, as required by a recent court ruling.


WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Wednesday's U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold a lethal-injection execution process won't lead to immediate changes in Maryland's de facto death-penalty moratorium.

In a brief written statement, Gov. Martin O'Malley, who favors abolishing the death penalty, said he first needs to review the seven written opinions in the Supreme Court's 7-2 vote in support of Kentucky's lethal-injection protocol.

Noting that the Maryland General Assembly approved a commission to study the death penalty, the governor said, "We will follow the law in both cases."

Meanwhile, Maryland House Republicans renewed pressure on O'Malley to address a procedural problem that has kept the state's death penalty on hold for about 16 months.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, the House minority whip, said O'Malley is continuing to disregard state law.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in December 2006 that the state improperly adopted its death-penalty procedure and couldn't execute inmates until the problem was corrected.

O'Malley, who took office in January 2007, hasn't addressed the flaw.

O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese last month said the governor was waiting for the outcome of the Supreme Court case.

Shank, though, said O'Malley could have corrected the state's procedural problem even while the Supreme Court case was pending.

Two hours after the decision was issued, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine lifted a capital-punishment moratorium he imposed April 1, The Associated Press reported.

The nation's last execution was in September in Texas, according to the AP.

The case before the Supreme Court was a challenge by death-row inmates in Kentucky. They alleged that drugs used for lethal injections could create significant pain, a violation of the U.S. Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment."

Seven justices disagreed with the petitioners, although not cohesively; they issued six opinions among them.

The two dissenting justices argued that Kentucky didn't have basic safeguards to ensure the injection process wouldn't break down.

All of the 36 states with capital punishment use lethal injection. At least 30 use the same combination of three drugs for lethal injections, according to the court's decision.

Maryland and Pennsylvania use lethal injection for the death penalty. West Virginia doesn't have capital punishment.

A movement in Maryland to abolish the death penalty grew when O'Malley took office.

O'Malley testified last year in favor of a repeal bill, but it failed in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee - in part because Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, voted against it.

The bill returned during the 2008 legislative session. But it didn't come up for a vote in Mooney's Senate committee, which had the same members as last year.

Mooney and other local Republican representatives have said the death penalty needs to be an option for inmates who kill correctional officers.

In January, Roxbury Correctional Institution inmate Brandon T. Morris was given life in prison instead of the death penalty after being convicted of murdering RCI Officer Jeffery A. Wroten.

This year, the General Assembly agreed to form a commission to further study the death penalty.

Shank said it looks like a preordained step in boosting the repeal movement, the same way New Jersey ended capital punishment.

Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr., R-Frederick/Washington, said last week that anyone who believes the commission won't slant toward O'Malley's view "is a fool and should stay away from land purchases and bridge purchases."

House Republicans tried during the 2008 session to pass a bill exempting the death-penalty protocol from procedural requirements, but the bill failed.


The Supreme Court's 7-2 ruling in support of lethal injections in Kentucky has given Republicans a new line of attack against Gov. Martin O'Malley.

House Minority Whip Christopher B. Shank said O'Malley's Catholic beliefs that oppose capital punishment are irrelevant to the issue.
''Governor O'Malley has been dragging his feet to uphold the laws of the state of Maryland because of his own thoughts on the death penalty," said Shank (R-Dist. 2B) of Hagerstown. ''The last time I checked somebody's religion as the chief executive of the state of Maryland has nothing to do with fulfilling his constitutional duties. The constitution of the state of Maryland is not like a Post-It note group of suggestions that the chief executive can adhere to if he wants to and disregard if he chooses to."

The Maryland Court of Appeals put a halt to executions in December 2006, ruling the state had not followed the proper steps to set up procedures to administer lethal injections. Since then, O'Malley has not put new regulations into place so executions could resume.

''We believe the governor is violating his oath of office and he is violating the constitution of the state of Maryland," said House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell (R-Dist. 29C) of Lusby in an interview Wednesday. ''He has the power to grant pardons. He has the power to grant clemency. He does not have the authority to suspend our law, and that's what he has effectively done by failing to issue these regulations."

The Supreme Court was highly splintered, with six of the seven justices writing their own separate opinions in support of lethal injection. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's wrote the dissent, with Justice David H. Souter joining her.

In a written statement, O'Malley said the Supreme Court's decision ''and all seven opinions contained in it" were being reviewed by the state.

''We also know the General Assembly has passed a bill requesting a commission to study the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent and the significant costs associated with it. We will follow the law in both cases," the statement read.

O'Donnell pointed out that Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine -- who, like O'Malley, is a Democrat and Catholic -- took action to reinstate the death penalty in Virginia after the Supreme Court's ruling on Wednesday.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a death penalty supporter, said he voted for the study commission since ''Governor O'Malley, because of his strong beliefs, is not going to sign any death warrants, so it will allow us to study and look at it."

Miller, too, also called for the governor to issue new regulations for a legislative committee to review them.

''He took an oath to uphold the regulations of the state of Maryland," said Miller (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach. ''He certainly has a legitimate excuse [to not sign any warrants] now that the General Assembly has authorized a complete study on the death penalty."

Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, said she is not surprised Republicans want executions to resume before the commission studies the issue because there are serious problems with the way the state has carried out executions in the past.

Kentucky, like Maryland, uses three drugs in the lethal injection process, including an anesthetic, a paralytic and a drug that stops the heart.

In a Maryland federal case, attorneys argued that the paralytic drug is administered to keep the person being executed from showing the painful effects.

Henderson said the Supreme Court ruling left open the door for more legal challenges to whether the procedure violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment.

Shank and O'Donnell wrote O'Malley asking him to resume executions. The letter was sent Wednesday, the same day Pope Benedict XVI arrived in the country and the same day the high court issued its ruling.

''I don't that's relevant," Shank said when asked about the timing.
Another governor that hasn't met a thug he couldn't hug.  >:( >:(.
You don't have to look any further than Baltimore for that.


On capital punishment, Maryland is on the road to becoming what some call a "symbolic state." The death penalty is on the books and there are prisoners on death row, but there have been no executions for more than two years.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week eliminated the excuse Gov. Martin O'Malley has been using for not doing a court-ordered fix to the state's death-penalty procedures. But before the high court could rule, the General Assembly had thoughtfully provided the governor with another rationale for delay.

In December 2006, just before Mr. O'Malley took office, the state Court of Appeals halted all executions on the technical grounds that the procedures for putting prisoners to death by lethal injection had never gotten the proper public review.

This could have been fixed in short order by putting the rules before a joint legislative committee and having a public hearing. Mr. O'Malley, instead, chose to wait for a Supreme Court decision on a case challenging Kentucky's lethal injection procedure.

Attorneys for death-row inmates argued that the three-drug procedure used in Kentucky, if botched, could cause the executed prisoner to suffer pain while being paralyzed and unable to give any sign of it. Unsurprisingly, a seven-justice majority of the high court sided with Kentucky's argument that the constitutional ban on "cruel and unusual" punishment doesn't mean that executions must be free of the slightest risk of pain.

So executions will probably resume in states with large death-row populations. Two hours after the decision was issued, Gov. Tim Kaine lifted Virginia's execution moratorium. Maryland Republican leaders urged Mr. O'Malley to finally fix the procedural problem and get capital punishment back on track here.

He should do so. Although personally opposed to the death penalty, he has pledged to carry out his oath of office to uphold the laws of the state.

But in this past session, the General Assembly set up a study commission to scrutinize capital punishment's "racial disparities," "jurisdictional disparities," "socio-economic disparities" - and, by the way, "the risk of innocent people being executed."

And the governor will appoint enough of the commission's 19 members to have a large say in its findings. We expect he'll delay any decisions on the death penalty until after the commission's report, due by Dec. 15, comes out.

We have no problem with capital punishment, but if the people of the state - through their legislators - want to abolish it and replace it with a system of ironclad life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentences, so be it.

We do have a problem with endless procrastination, legalistic nitpicking and waiting on the outcome of jury-rigged studies. Next year the legislature needs to come to a clear decision on capital punishment, and the governor - whatever his private convictions - needs to abide by it. "Symbolic" penalties don't do any good.


Maryland's Governor Signs Law On Death Penalty Study

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed several other laws into effect Tuesday. He signed a bill that allows tougher penalties for dog or cockfighting. Anyone caught holding or attending a fight would face the stiffer penalties.

The Governor wants to do a study on the death penalty. He signed a law allowing a State study of whether the death penalty should be repealed. Executions have been on hold since 2006 while the measure is being considered.


May 22, 2008, 06:45:11 PM Last Edit: May 24, 2008, 12:31:46 AM by Jeff1857
O'Malley to order new death penalty protocols
De facto death penalty moratorium has been in effect in Md. since 2006

Gov. Martin O'Malley, an ardent opponent of capital punishment, took the first step in ending Maryland's de facto moratorium on the death penalty by saying he will order new protocols for administering lethal injection.

Maryland's highest court ruled 18 months ago that the state's execution procedures were improperly developed without legislative oversight or public input. But new protocols have not been developed as O'Malley had said he wanted to give the General Assembly time to consider a death penalty repeal. In addition, executions were put on hold across the nation last fall in anticipation of a federal court ruling on lethal injection procedures in Kentucky and other states, including Maryland.

But the repeal has failed in the legislature two years in a row, and the Supreme Court last month upheld Kentucky's lethal injection procedures, which are nearly identical to those used in Maryland and most states with death penalty laws.

"I wish we would arrive at a point where we would repeal the penalty, but I do not have the luxury in this job or the permission in this job only to enforce laws that I'm in favor of and that I agree with," O'Malley, a Democrat, told reporters in Annapolis. "So sadly, we'll be moving forward with those protocols."

Gary D. Maynard, secretary of public safety and correctional services, will review the state's death penalty protocols in consultation with "the best advice of medical people in the state," the governor said. The protocols govern the drugs, dosage and other rules for carrying out executions by lethal injection. A three-drug procedure is used to anesthetize the inmate, paralyze the muscles, including the lungs, and finally stop the heart.

At the same time that prison officials are developing the new protocols, a state commission will be appointed to study the costs of Maryland's death penalty and its effectiveness as a deterrent to crime. The legislature this year passed a law establishing the commission and ordered it to report findings by Dec. 15. O'Malley said he anticipates that both the commission and the protocols will take "at least the balance of the year to conclude."
It's a step but I'm sure they will take their sweet time.


Gov. Martin O'Malley today announced the appointment of Benjamin Civiletti, a prominent Baltimore lawyer who served as U.S. attorney general during the Carter administration, as chairman of a commission to study the death penalty in Maryland.

The commission begins its deliberations as O'Malley, a staunch opponent of capital punishment, has moved toward ending Maryland's de facto moratorium on executions by ordering the drafting of procedures for the use of lethal injection. O'Malley, a Democrat, made that decision on the advice of counsel after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Kentucky's use of lethal injection protocols that are virtually identical to Maryland's.

Established this year by the General Assembly, the commission is charged with examining a number of issues including disparities in the application of the death penalty, the cost of litigating prolonged capital punishment cases versus life imprisonment, and the impact of DNA evidence.

O'Malley appointed 13 of the 23 commission members, and death penalty proponents had raised concerns that the governor would stack the panel with like-minded opponents. Civiletti, whose current practice focuses on commercial litigation and white-collar crime, said he hasn't represented anyone charged with a capital offense and declined to share his personal opinion on the subject.,0,5863948.story?track=rss


I've read <Henrik this will make you happier than a hooker when the fleet is in> a study where Civiletti is a major anti DP person. So Gov O'Malley is stacking the deck. If a state wants to abolish the DP I have NO problem with that but let the voters decide not one person or a party exactly as New Jersy did. It shows a US weakness and I personally don't like it.


The Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment held its first public hearing Monday, one of several to explore the state's death penalty procedures before issuing recommendations to lawmakers at the end of the year.

The panel asked questions and heard testimony from University of Maryland criminologist Raymond Paternoster. He released a study in 2003 that concluded Maryland prosecutors were more than twice as likely to seek a death sentence for black defendants who killed white people than black defendants who killed black people.

Paternoster found geographical disparities in his study as well. For example, Baltimore County prosecutors were more than 13 times more likely to seek a death sentence than prosecutors in the city of Baltimore, he told the panel.

The panel also heard from Deborah Poritz, a former chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. Poritz noted similar disparities among counties in New Jersey, which repealed the death penalty this year.

"It is difficult to sympathize with a cold-blooded killer, but it makes no sense that a murderer in one county is subject to the death penalty when an identical crime would be treated in an entirely different way, if it were committed in another county," Poritz said.

The panel also was scheduled to hear testimony later Monday from David Kaczynski, the brother of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. David Kaczynski, who turned his brother in to federal authorities, is a death penalty opponent.

The commission was established in the last legislative session to address several concerns, including racial, jurisdictional and socio-economic issues in capital punishment.

The commission also will study the risk of an innocent person being executed. In addition, it will compare costs of "prolonged court cases involving capital punishment" with costs for life imprisonment without parole.

Former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti is leading the commission, along with 22 other people.

The commission will issue its findings and recommendations to the Maryland General Assembly by Dec. 15.

The panel is scheduled to hold two more public hearings in August. A fourth will be held in September, and another has been tentatively scheduled in September, if necessary. The commission will then hold two meetings in October and another in November. Members of the public can testify at the hearings.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat and death penalty opponent, has supported repealing capital punishment in Maryland. However, repeal attempts have failed in the past two years.

The commission includes three relatives of murder victims and Kirk Bloodsworth, a former Maryland death row inmate whose case was the first capital conviction overturned as a result of DNA testing in the United States.

There is a de facto moratorium against capital punishment in Maryland because of a ruling in late 2006 by the state's highest court. The court ruled the state's protocol for the lethal injection procedure was implemented without proper approval by a legislative committee. Executions can't resume until the O'Malley administration submits new rules for the committee to approve.

O'Malley has directed the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections to begin working on the protocol, a process that could be finished by the end of the year.

Maryland currently has five men on death row. Only five inmates have been executed since Maryland reinstated the death penalty in 1978. Wesley Baker, who was put to death in December 2005, was the last person to be executed in Maryland.
I´m not sure if there´s a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.

ScoopD (aka: Pam)

The daughter of a murdered elderly couple told a commission studying Maryland's death penalty yesterday to fix flaws in capital punishment - not to repeal it - while critics argued that capital cases are susceptible to legal errors.

Phyllis Bricker's parents, Irvin and Rose Bronstein, were murdered more than 25 years ago in Baltimore by John Booth-El, one of Maryland's five death row inmates.

"Criminals will no longer fear being executed in Maryland, no matter how heinous their crime," if Maryland's death penalty law is repealed, Bricker said.

"There is no question now about the innocence or guilt in this case."

Bricker also told the panel, which has been studying racial disparities in capital punishment, that it was former Baltimore State's Attorney Kurt L. Schmoke, who is black and went on to be the city's mayor, who sought the death penalty against Booth-El, who also is black.

"Three separate Baltimore City juries ... 12 members each, men and women, black and white, have sentenced this man to death," Bricker said.

The commission, which was holding its second public hearing, also heard testimony from Deborah Fleischaker, a former director of the American Bar Association Death Penalty Moratorium Project.

She told the commission that ineffective legal counsel has been a major cause of serious errors in capital cases, including wrongful convictions.

She specifically mentioned the case of Flint Gregory Hunt, who was executed in Maryland in 1997 for killing a Baltimore police officer, as an example. She said that none of Hunt's three attorneys was highly qualified to defend him.

"Consequently, the defense never raised important facts like that Hunt was high on PCP when the shooting occurred, which might well have countered the prosecutor's case that the murder was premeditated and thus death-eligible," she told the panel.

Defense attorneys Harry Trainor and Bill Brennan, who have represented capital defendants, also testified.

Trainor told the panel that society will have to learn to accept that serious mistakes will be made if it decides to keep the death penalty.

"There will always be an error rate, because this isn't a system that's run by infallible human beings, and it's impossible in the long run to run a system like this without making serious mistakes," he said.

Trainor pointed to the case of Kirk Noble Bloodsworth, a commission member and former Maryland death row inmate whose case was the first capital conviction overturned as a result of DNA testing in the United States.

The commission also includes three relatives of murder victims.

Yesterday's hearing was one of several that will be held before the panel issues recommendations to the Maryland General Assembly by Dec. 15.

A third hearing scheduled for Aug. 19 will focus on cost comparisons of the death penalty with alternative sentences. A fourth, set for Sept. 5, will include discussions about the risk of innocent people being executed.

There is a de facto moratorium on capital punishment in Maryland because of a ruling in late 2006 by the state's highest court.

The court ruled the state's protocol for lethal injection was implemented without proper approval by a legislative committee. Executions can't resume until Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration submits new rules for the committee to approve.

O'Malley, a death penalty opponent, has directed the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections to begin working on the protocol, a process that could be finished by the end of the year.

Five inmates have been executed since Maryland reinstated the death penalty in 1978. Wesley Baker, who was put to death in December 2005, was the last person executed in Maryland.

<br /><br />If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. -Thomas Paine<br /><br />My reason for supporting capital punishment: My cousin 16 yr. old Amanda Greenwell was murdered in March of 2004 at the hands of serial killer Jeremy Bryan Jones.


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)


Yo Jeff, this is Delaware news my friend. 


Thanks!!!! I'm getting senile.  ;D ;D ;D

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