The head of the national NAACP said Thursday that he’s confident Maryland lawmakers will repeal the state’s death penalty in the upcoming session, despite the failure of numerous efforts in the past.
Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the NAACP, met with Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) for about 45 minutes Thursday and told reporters afterward that he expected the governor’s full support for repeal.
“By the time we get to the session, I have every confidence that we will have a bill that’s headed to a vote, and we will have a vote that we can win, and we will get this to the governor’s desk,” Jealous said.
O’Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said the governor is still considering whether to make the death penalty repeal one of his legislative priorities, but confirmed that he had asked advocates to show that the measure would have enough support among lawmakers.
“Before the session starts, [O’Malley] will have that on his desk,” Jealous said.
One obstacle to the measure’s passage could be Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach, who supports keeping the death penalty legal for use in the most extreme cases.
Jealous said he plans to meet with Miller next week to discuss the issue.
Bills to repeal the death penalty have been introduced in 10 of the past 12 years. In 2009, a repeal bill was heavily amended to keep the death penalty on the books, but restricted the circumstances under which it could be used. Capital cases must now have DNA or conclusive video evidence or a video confession.
Every other year the bill has been introduced, it has died in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee before getting a hearing on the Senate floor.
This year, repeal advocates are coming off successful repeal campaigns in Connecticut and New Mexico, Jealous said. “We’re on a bit of a roll here,” he said.
Maryland currently has five inmates on death row. The state has not executed an inmate since 2006, due to issues in the protocol for lethal injection as well as the unavailability of a drug used in the procedure.
Many legislators and observers say 2013 could be a make or break year for repeal.
Sen. Lisa Gladden and Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenburg, both District 41 Democrats from Baltimore, are slated to sponsor this year’s bill, which will include language to ensure that any savings realized from the repeal go to families of murder victims.
According to the Office of the Public Defender, capital cases are far more expensive to prosecute — $1.9 million annually versus $650,000 to try the cases as noncapital.