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Maryland General Assembly backs death penalty review commission

[JURIST] The Maryland General Assembly [official website] has passed legislation to establish the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, which would study the implementation and execution of the death penalty in that state. The state House approved HB 1111 [text] by a 89-48 vote on Monday, and the Senate later approved SB 614 [text] by a 32-15 vote. The Commission will focus its study on racial and socioeconomic factors in giving death penalty sentences, the risk of executing innocent persons, and the economic differences in administering the death penalty versus imprisoning somebody for life. A complete report by the Commission is to be provided to the General Assembly by December 15.

The Maryland debate over the death penalty [JURIST news archive] has been fueled by a December 2006 Maryland Court of Appeals decision, which held [JURIST report] that lethal injection procedures are subject to the state's Administrative Procedures Act and therefore must be developed under the guidance of the Maryland attorney general and a legislative committee, with review and comment by the public. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) [official profile] has been an outspoken critic of Maryland's use of capital punishment, and last year urged [JURIST report] the General Assembly ahead of a death penalty repeal vote to abolish the practice because it is "inherently unjust," ineffective as a deterrent and a drain on resources. The repeal failed [JURIST news archive] in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee [official website] in a 5-5 tie vote. A second repeal bill is currently pending before the Senate, and is expected to again fail [Baltimore Sun report]. AP has more.

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