- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 24, 2008

“I wish we would arrive at a point where we would 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. So sadly, we’ll be moving forward with those protocols.” The governor of Maryland, Martin O'Malley, made those comments Thursday. His concession means that the de facto moratorium on capital punishment will soon end. At least that is the expectation if policy-makers and lawmakers move with all deliberate speed in Annapolis.

Mr. O’Malley, who personally opposes capital punishment, balked at drafting new regulations even after the Supreme Court ruled lethal injections to be constitutional on April 16. Objections to executions are understandable, especially when such objections are rooted in moral clarity. We pointed out in an April 21 editorial: “Mr. O'Malley must understand, too, that the law is the law, and he has sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution and Maryland state law ‘without partiality or prejudice.’ By failing to carry out his gubernatorial obligations, Mr. O'Malley is enabling convicted killers to escape justice.”

Thus, after more than a year of trying to escape his gubernatorial duties and lobbying the General Assembly for an outright ban, Mr. O'Malley yesterday took the first step away from the moratorium. Next, the state must develop new protocols that can pass court muster while a commission will study whether the death penalty “deters crime and is cost-effective.”

The governor took considerable heat for the moratorium. But Mr. O'Malley conceded on Thursday: “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.” Americans who stand for justice, law and order owe the governor a sincere “Thank you” (as we do). In the meantime, the governor should stand by his own words so that Annapolis can “move forward with those protocols.” Justice must prevail.