Maryland Death Penalty News

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

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heidi salazar

Bill Would Allow Fingerprints For Death Penalty

A bipartisan group of Maryland senators wants to change the law to allow fingerprints or photographic evidence to be used to bring death penalty cases.

Last year, the death penalty law was changed to limit capital cases only to murder cases with biological evidence such as DNA, videotaped evidence of a murder or a videotaped confession.

Eight Democrats and seven Republicans have signed on their support for the bill.

The change in the law last year was made in a compromise to a full death penalty repeal that was backed by Gov. Martin O'Malley.

heidi salazar

Bill would strengthen Md. death penalty laws

Maryland lawmakers and the state attorney general are bucking calls to repeal the death penalty with a bill that would expand the types of evidence admissible in capital cases.

Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., D-Baltimore County, is sponsoring a bill that would enable courts to use fingerprints and photographs to convict suspects of capital murder.

The bill rebuffs the legislature's highly publicized vote last year to limit admissible evidence in capital cases to "biological" or "DNA" samples, a video recording of the suspect committing the crime or a recording of the suspect's voluntary confession.

"The state legislature botched the death penalty in Maryland last year by weakening it and this is an attempt to fix a known, blatant flaw in last year's very bad bill," said Sen. David Brinkley, R-Carroll County.

But fingerprint evidence is subjective, and "comparing curls and swirls to see if they match" easily could send an innocent man to death row, said Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions.

"There is a huge amount of ignorance in Annapolis," she said. "Does Annapolis have its head buried so deep in the sand to think that fingerprints -- just because we've used them for 100 years -- are reliable?"

Experts on fingerprint analysis are scheduled to testify before the Judicial Proceedings Committee Wednesday.

Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, R-Worcester County, said the fingerprint clause clarifies -- rather than diverges from -- last year's decision to tighten evidence standards. He said "biological standards" infers the use of fingerprints.

Stone defended fingerprints as "valuable evidence in every type of crime."

"[Prosecutors] use fingerprints all the time," he said.

Gov. Martin O'Malley asked the legislature to repeal Maryland's death penalty last year, but lawmakers voted down the effort in favor of tightening evidence restrictions. The changes make the death penalty more difficult to prosecute in Maryland than in any of the 35 other states supporting capital punishment, according to Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.

Maryland has held five executions since it reinstated capital punishment in 1978, and five defendants are currently on death row -- each at the cost of $68,000 a year -- according to the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment. The last person executed in Maryland was Wesley Eugene Baker in December 2005. Baker was convicted of killing 49-year-old Jane Tyson at Westview Mall in Catonsville.

heidi salazar

Committee Modifies "Jessica's Law" Changes; Rejects Death Penalty For Offenders

The House Judiciary Committee rejected a bill that would have imposed the death penalty for the murder of a child who was sexually assaulted.

Committee Vice Chairman Sandy Rosenberg said the panel did agree not to make any changes to Maryland's death penalty law this year. Last year, lawmakers approved a number of restrictions on death penalty prosecutions.

The committee votes came as the full House of Delegates considers a number of bills that place further restrictions on registered sex offenders.

A final vote is expected on Friday.

(source: WBAL)

heidi salazar

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.",0,2530808.story

heidi salazar

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)

heidi salazar

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)

heidi salazar

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.


MARYLAND: State Senate president seeks death penalty resumption

January 16, 2011

ANNAPOLIS -- Maryland's Senate president says he will push during the current session of the state legislature to resume use of the death penalty.

Maryland's highest court halted the death penalty in December 2006, a month before Gov. Martin O'Malley took office, until new procedures are developed. The governor unsuccessfully lobbied the legislature to repeal the death penalty before proposing new regulations. Since then, a review panel headed by two lawmakers opposed to capital punishment has yet to take action, and Senate President Mike Miller says allowing the issue to sit is making a mockery of the legislative process.

O'Malley as governor has clemency power and has said he will decide whether to commute death sentences that come before him on a case-by-case basis.







Did O'Mally win the new election? If not then is the incoming Governor for the death penalty?
My reason for supporting the death penalty? A murderer has less of a right to live than his victim and already presents a danger while incarcerated for life. They have nothing to lose when the most they can get is Life in prison without parole.


Looks like it's still Martin O'Malley (D)

O'Malley also sought to abolish capital punishment in Maryland. This did not prove achievable, but he did obtain approval of, and added his signature in May 2009 to, a bill that limits its use to cases in which a defendant confesses on videotape to the murder with which he or she was charged, or to cases in which DNA, biological, or videotaped evidence conclusively links the defendant to the crime. Fingerprints and eyewitness accounts will no longer suffice as evidence.


Hopefully they will keep him on a short leash.


Looks like it's still Martin O'Malley (D)

O'Malley also sought to abolish capital punishment in Maryland. This did not prove achievable, but he did obtain approval of, and added his signature in May 2009 to, a bill that limits its use to cases in which a defendant confesses on videotape to the murder with which he or she was charged, or to cases in which DNA, biological, or videotaped evidence conclusively links the defendant to the crime. Fingerprints and eyewitness accounts will no longer suffice as evidence.


Hopefully they will keep him on a short leash.

Well fuck                   .
My reason for supporting the death penalty? A murderer has less of a right to live than his victim and already presents a danger while incarcerated for life. They have nothing to lose when the most they can get is Life in prison without parole.


Md.'s halt to executions will continue; lethal-injection drug scarce

By John Wagner

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration announced Thursday that it is withdrawing proposed regulations needed for executions to resume in Maryland, effectively extending a four-year moratorium on the death penalty.

Administration officials said the move was prompted by a U.S. company's recent decision to halt production of one of three drugs used for lethal injections in Maryland and many other states. The administration's proposed regulations specifically call for use of the drug, a powerful anesthetic known as sodium thiopental.

Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said officials plan to submit new regulations to a legislative panel after reviewing a broad range of alternatives, including alteration of the state's use of a three-drug protocol.

"Putting a timetable on how long that will take is unrealistic at this point," Binetti said.

Lawmakers and others involved in the process suggested that a delay of six months could be possible. Maryland has five inmates on death row.

O'Malley (D), who opposes the death penalty, has been criticized by supporters of capital punishment for delays in implementing regulations called for by a 2006 court ruling.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), a death-penalty supporter, said he considered the latest setback "very legitimate," however.

States across the country have been scrambling since last month, when Hospira of Lake Forest, Ill., announced that it would discontinue production of sodium thiopental, which it said it never condoned for lethal injections.

Shortages of the drug have prompted some states to switch to another controversial anesthetic, while others have sought to buy doses of sodium thiopental from foreign countries. Thirteen states recently asked the U.S. Justice Department for help in finding the drug.

"It is a broad problem that's still working its way through," said Richard C. Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington. "You either try something new, or you look overseas or somewhere else.. . . Whichever way you go, you may run into problems."

Larry Traylor, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, said officials there are "in the same situation, and we're investigating our options."

Traylor said Virginia officials have no executions scheduled and would resolve the issue before another takes place. The state has 10 prisoners on death row.

In Maryland - which last executed a prisoner in 2005 - corrections secretary Gary D. Maynard notified a legislative review panel of his department's decision to withdraw its regulations in a letter made public Thursday.

"Many states are now in the process of reviewing and revising their protocols in light of this development," Maynard wrote to the co-chairmen of the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review.

The panel plays an advisory role, and O'Malley could implement death penalty regulations over its objections. To date, his administration has been very deferential to concerns raised by the panel's co-chairmen, both of whom oppose the death penalty.

A hearing on the regulations that had been scheduled for next week was canceled after Thursday's announcement.

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's), a co-chairman of the panel, said he expects the department to take three to six months to draft new regulations.

"They're going to have to review this and figure out which chemicals to use," Pinsky said.

There has been a moratorium on capital punishment in Maryland since December 2006, the month before O'Malley took office, when the state's highest court ruled that new regulations were needed because the ones on the books had not been properly adopted.

For the first three years of his tenure, O'Malley 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.

In 2009, seeking to compromise on the divisive issue, Maryland lawmakers tightened evidence standards required in death penalty cases. Capital cases are now limited to those that include at least one of three types of evidence: DNA or biological evidence, a videotaped confession or a videotape linking the suspect to the crime.

Still, the death penalty has continued to generate intense debate in Maryland.

On Thursday, a group of legislators and civic leaders announced a renewed effort to repeal capital punishment during the 90-day legislative session.

At a news conference, the group released the names of 21 senators and 61 delegates who are co-sponsoring the repeal bill - a larger number than in previous years.

O'Malley has not made a repeal bill a priority this year.

Miller and other lawmakers who support use of the death penalty have publicly urged O'Malley in recent months to implement regulations needed for executions to resume. And despite the moratorium, prosecutors have continued to seek the death penalty in some high-profile cases.

Last week, Prince George's State's Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks said prosecutors would seek the death penalty against a Texas man accused of killing four people, including two young children, inside a squalid apartment in the Lanham area in August.

In an interview Thursday, Miller pointed to that case in arguing for the resumption of capital punishment as soon as the procedures can be worked out.

"Some crimes are just too terrible to allow people to continue to be subsidized by society," he said.







Md. Lawmakers To Discuss Ridding Death Penalty

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)--This week the fight over the death penalty is back. Lawmakers will hear testimony on a bill to get rid of capital punishment in Maryland. Now there's strong and surprising words on the controversial issue.

Adam May has more.

Praying for legislation. Opponents to the death penalty renew calls to end the punishment in Maryland. It comes just days before the General Assembly begins examining the controversial issue.

Baltimore's archbishop made a little known confession during a prayer service aimed at increasing support to repeal the death penalty.

"I was for the death penalty most of my life, then I looked into it more deeply. And I realized as a man of faith and a Catholic, I had to take life more seriously and respect it more," said Archbishop Edwin O'Brien. "The death penalty is not only injustice and expensive, but it doesn't deter crime."

Debate will begin this week on a bill that would end the death penalty in Maryland.

It has the support of Gov. Martin O'Malley, but the Senate president opposes it.

"There was a crime in Baltimore where a guy killed a shopkeeper and locked him in a freezer with a little child overnight with his dead dad in a freezer.  Someone who commits a crime like that deserves the death penalty," said Sen. President Mike Miller, (D) Maryland.

But a woman in the crowd--still hoping her brother's killer is caught--does not want capital justice.

"We would want it to be a time of healing for everybody, not a time to continue violence because that doesn't honor my brother," said Erica Bridgeford, death penalty opponent.

"I spent almost nine years in prison for a crime I didn't commit, and for that reason alone, the death penalty should be done away with," said Kirk Bloodsworth, who was proven innocent.

Just a few days ago, Illinois repealed its death penalty. Governor Patt Quinn said it was wasting millions of tax dollars.

Ill. had Bishop Tutu and Prejean, Maryland now has Archbishop Edwin O'Brien... It seems like the Catholic leaders are responsible for changing our laws and due to the supposed seperation between church and state, wouldn't that make the repeals of the DP unconstitutional?
It would be nice if they let the PEOPLE go back to voting on the laws instead of letting the church decide them...
>:(  >:(  >:(
Live your life in such a way that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders and says..."Oh crap...she's awake!!!"

I have not met all of the innocent children murdered but I have wept for them. I have not seen all of the monsters but I know they are there.


Those antis are cancer to our law system. It's not right and it's just stupid. Maryland can't afford to get rid of the death penalty after all didn't a correction's officer get killed not to long ago?
My reason for supporting the death penalty? A murderer has less of a right to live than his victim and already presents a danger while incarcerated for life. They have nothing to lose when the most they can get is Life in prison without parole.


March 15, 2011

Death penalty repeal unlikely, Senate president says

Advocates for abolishing Maryland's death penalty, which they called unfair and confusing after a recent revision, made their case Tuesday to a House of Delegates committee. But the effort is not likely to gain traction in the Senate.

"There's no sentiment in the Senate" to debate a repeal, said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller in an interview Tuesday. Miller, a Southern Maryland Democrat, is a proponent of capital punishment. "We've taken it up."

Two years ago, the General Assembly wrestled with a Gov. Martin O'Malley-led repeal effort. Instead of ending capital punishment, a closely divided Senate opted for a compromise plan that further limits when prosecutors can seek death. O'Malley is not pushing a repeal this year.

Even so, advocates for ending the capital punishment argue the time is right because the state's years-long de facto moratorium will only continue as officials ponder what chemicals to use in lethal injections. There's a nationwide shortage of one part of the three-drug cocktail Maryland and other states have long used.

A law professor who testified at the House hearing criticized the 2009 compromise effort, saying Maryland's death penalty statute is now more confusing than ever. At least six capital murder cases are pending in counties across the state. Next month, two are scheduled to come to trial.

"There are significant unintended consequences of this bill that are already being litigated," said David Aaronson, a law professor at American University. He named five "ambiguous" terms that are attracting legal scrutiny.

Under the 2009 compromise, which aimed to prevent innocent people from being put on death row, lawmakers determined that a prosecutor can seek death in only cases with DNA evidence, a videotape of the crime or a video-recorded confession by the killer.

But, Aaronson argued, the devil is in the details.

For example, the law uses the term "biological evidence" rather than DNA evidence. What if, he asked, an investigator recovers a suspect's hair from the crime scene -- but one that does not contain DNA?

Also under the new law, any video-recording of the crime must "conclusively link" the suspect to the killer. What exactly does "conclusively link" mean? Aaronson asked. Unlike more familiar phrases such as "beyond a reasonable doubt," it is not a legal term.

But the latest repeal effort may not even make it to a Senate committee this year. Because it was filed late, the legislation is languishing in a rules committee that determines whether it can get a hearing.






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