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Maryland Senate votes to repeal death penalty

The Maryland Senate [official website] on Wednesday voted 27-20 [roll call vote] to repeal the death penalty, a legislative goal long sought by Governor Martin O'Malley [official website]. Passed after several days of debate, 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. The law [materials] also requires that, beginning in 2015, the projected $500,000 in savings as a result of the repeal will be redirected to victims of crime. The bill will now pass to the Maryland House of Delegates and, if approved, to O'Malley to be signed into law. With the repeal, Maryland would become the eighteenth US state to abolish capital punishment.

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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