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Maryland legislature approves bill banning death penalty

The Maryland House of Delegates on Friday voted 82-56 [House vote] to ban the death penalty in Maryland. Senate Bill 276 [text, PDF] seeks to repeal "the death penalty and all provisions relating to it," and will prescribe sentences of life imprisonment for individuals convicted of first degree murder. Prior to Senate Bill 276, Maryland's capital punishment laws were among the most restrictive in the country; Senate Bill 279 [text, PDF], which was signed into law in 2009, prevented a judge from imposing the death penalty unless one of three factors existed: DNA evidence, a videotaped confession, or a videotaped murder. Even before the restrictions were passed, Maryland had only executed five people since 1976. The bill has been sent to Governor Martin O'Malley [official website], who has pledged to sign it into law.

O'Malley announced in January that he would file legislation to repeal capital punishment [JURIST report] in Maryland, stating that the death penalty is expensive and ineffective. In 2008, the governor created [JURIST report] the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment [official website] after an unsuccessful attempt [JURIST report] to repeal the death penalty in 2007. Outside of Maryland, Connecticut [JURIST report] became the seventeenth state to abolish the death penalty and the fifth to do so in the previous five years, which it did last April. New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Illinois [JURIST reports] have all recently eliminated the death penalty, while 33 states retain its use, according to the Death Penalty Information Center [advocacy website]. However, California voters declined to repeal the death penalty [JURIST report] on the most recent ballot, with 47 percent of voters supporting the repeal last November.

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