- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2008

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) Gov. Martin O'Malley, an opponent of capital punishment, said today he will “sadly” move forward with getting Maryland’s execution protocol approved, a step required by the state’s highest court before another execution can take place.

The Court of Appeals ruled in late 2006 that the state could not hold another lethal injection until a legislative committee gave proper approval to the rules about how executions are carried out.

Mr. O'Malley has backed a repeal of capital punishment, but legislation to replace a death sentence with life in prison without possibility of parole has failed for two consecutive years in the Maryland General Assembly.

“I wish we would arrive at a point where we repeal the death penalty, but I do not have the luxury in this job, or the permission in this job, only to enforce laws that I’m in favor of and that I agree with,” Mr. O’Malley told reporters.

Instead of a repeal, lawmakers decided this year to create a commission to study whether the death penalty deters crime and is cost-effective.

Mr. O'Malley considered whether to include the execution protocols as part of the death penalty study, but he decided the two would proceed on “two separate tracks.”

The commission is set to submit its findings by Dec. 15.

“The rulemaking doesn’t have that time limit, but I anticipate they’ll probably both take at least the balance of the year to conclude,” Mr. O'Malley said.

The governor said he would soon direct Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Gary Maynard to begin developing the protocols, which include what chemicals are used during the lethal injection process, the dosages and other medical aspects of the procedure.

Mr. O'Malley said he had not put the procedure in motion earlier to get proper approval because the repeal legislation was pending in the General Assembly, and because he was waiting to see what the U.S. Supreme Court would decide in its evaluation of lethal injection. In April, the Supreme Court upheld Kentucky’s method of lethal injection, which is the most commonly used method in the country.

In December 2006, the Maryland Court of Appeals found that Maryland’s lethal injection protocol manual was never submitted to a joint legislative committee or given a public hearing before it was adopted, as required by Maryland’s Administrative Procedure Act.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeals concluded that the current protocol is consistent with state law. However, the court also concluded that a legislative committee charged with reviewing the protocol “may have a different view.”

The legislative committee that has to approve the protocol is the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative and Legislative Review.

Maryland currently has five men on death row. Five inmates have been executed since Maryland reinstated the death penalty in 1978. Wesley Baker, who was put to death in December 2005, was the last person to be executed in Maryland.

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