- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2009

Gov. Martin O’Malley took his campaign against Maryland’s death penalty to the streets Wednesday, praying and marching with clergy in opposition to a punishment he called “expensive, outdated and utterly ineffective.”

The move is the most recent for Mr. O’Malley in his emotional, all-out effort this year to repeal the 30-year-old death penalty after years of defeat in the state Senate.

“Well, I only have 22 [Senate votes], but the Holy Spirit might have 24, so let’s give him a shot,” said Mr. O’Malley, a Catholic and a Democrat.

“We should not waste one instant, one day, one cent, one dime, serving death,” he said.

Last week, Mr. O’Malley made a rare appearance at a hearing of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which has killed efforts to abolish the death penalty twice in the past two years. The governor pleaded with the lawmakers to send his bill to the full 47-member Senate for a vote.

Mr. O’Malley urged the committee to consider “what kind of society we want to be in and what kind of society we hope to leave for our children.”

Also last week, Mr. O’Malley urged about 300 people who were in Annapolis for the African Methodist Episcopal Church legislative day to write petitions to lawmakers on the issue.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Prince George’s Democrat who opposes a repeal of the death penalty, said Wednesday that he will not fight efforts to move the legislation out of committee without a vote.

Mr. O’Malley cited practical objections to capital punishment.

“The death penalty did nothing to help us achieve the second largest reduction in homicides in nearly a quarter century last year,” he told about 100 Maryland church leaders at the rally near the State House Building in Annapolis.

Bishop Denis J. Madden of the Archdiocese of Baltimore urged lawmakers to “listen truthfully to the voice of their moral conscience” by supporting the repeal.

“We urge them to rule with judgment that is informed by the light of reason and by the foundational beliefs that each of our faith communities contributes to the public square,” Bishop Madden said.

Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland said the state should adopt nonviolent methods to deal with its most violent criminals.

“We are not going to kill our way out of a culture awash in violence,” he said.

Pastor Claudia B. Walter of the Power Alliance of Christians Group Ministries agreed.

“One life for another will not accomplish anything or lower the crime rate,” she said. “It has not proved to be a deterrent to violent crimes, but it has proven to be a costly one.”

Mr. O’Malley has frequently pointed to the findings of a special commission formed last summer and headed by former U.S Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti to address the pros and cons of the death penalty and its application in Maryland. In December, the commission recommended that the death penalty be abolished, citing its cost to maintain and the risk of mistakenly executing an innocent person.

Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, said the commission’s findings have been a key factor in creating momentum for the proposed repeal.

“We’ve been pulling out all the stops this year to get this bill passed. The commission’s recommendations have inspired anyone who’s supported the repeal. It’s been a real glimmer of hope,” said Miss Russell.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, five people have been executed in Maryland, and five more are on death row. A de facto moratorium on executions has been in place since 2006, when the state’s highest court ruled that the state’s lethal-injection protocols were flawed.

Legislation to repeal the death penalty also is being considered this year in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and New Hampshire.

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