Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley [official website] on Thursday signed into law [press release] a bill [SB 276 materials] to repeal the death penalty. The legislation, which makes Maryland the eighteenth US state to repeal the death penalty, was approved by the state legislature [JURIST report] in March. Prior to the bill, 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.
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. New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Illinois [JURIST reports] have all recently eliminated the death penalty, while 32 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.