After four days of stressful debate, two Republicans members of the Maryland State Senate joined the 25 democrats to vote 27 to 20 to repeal the death penalty. A project of Gov. Martin O'Malley since 2007, the measure was finally able to pass due to new Senators and the changed minds of others.
The Senators who gave the measure the green light listed reasons including proven racial bias, cost, ineffectiveness as a crime deterrent, and the fact that in many cases, the death penalty does not bring closure to the families of victims.
The fear of having innocent blood on their hands was also a factor.
"I'm jealous of all of you who have these firm beliefs on this, because I don't," said Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), who voted for repeal. Zirkin said he had no moral qualms with seeing "horrible monsters" put to death, but he said one nagging thought pushed him to the supporters' column.
"We could execute an innocent person, and that weighs on my conscience too heavily not to cast a green vote," he said.
Chillingly, Kirk Bloodsworth, an exonerated death-row inmate who was cleared of the charges of raping and murdering a 9-year-old girl via DNA evidence, watched much of the debate from the Senate gallery.
It's likely the measure will pass in the House of Delegates next week, and then it'll go to Gov. O'Malley to sign into law. Which, duh.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center:
If passed by the House and signed into law, Maryland would become the sixth state in six years, and the 18th overall to abandon capital punishment. Maryland has five people on death row and has carried out five executions since reinstating the death penalty in 1978. There have been no executions since 2005. Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, and New Jersey are the other states that have ended the imposition of death sentences since 2007.
The catch is, that if the measure passes, citizen opponents have said they'll make use of a provision in the state's constitution that allows people to petition recently passed laws to the ballot. With a poll taken just last week showing that a majority of Marylanders want to keep the death penalty, nothing is certain.