- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Republican lawmakers yesterday renewed their efforts to keep the state death penalty, following a recent attack on a Maryland corrections officer by a convicted murderer.

“You have doctors, nurses and educators who work in the prisons … their lives are more at risk,” said Sen. Larry E. Haines, Carroll County Republican. “I think all of us know in our heart [the death penalty] is a deterrent.”

A repeal of the death penalty has emerged as one of the biggest issues in the 2007 General Assembly, with bills pending in the House and Senate that Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, said he would sign.

A full repeal is unlikely, but a partial repeal is being discussed with the Assembly session roughly five weeks from ending.

Sen. Alex X. Mooney, Frederick Republican, met last week with Mr. O’Malley about amending the death penalty to apply only to inmates who kill prison workers, which has created concern among supporters and opponents of capital punishment.

Delegate Susan K. McComas, Harford County Republican, said lawmakers should not determine that justice is more important for prison guards than for others.

“It’s a slippery slope,” said Mrs. McComas, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee.

The stabbing Friday at the Maryland House of Corrections in Jessup was the most recent attack in a prison system plagued by violence.

Corrections Officer David McGuinn, 41, was stabbed to death by three inmates in the Jessup prison in July. In January 2006, Corrections Officer Jeffery Alan Wroten, 44, was fatally shot by an inmate he was guarding at Washington County Hospital. In the stabbing last week, inmate Richard Crawford, 38, has been charged with attempted murder. The guard, Edouardo Edouazin, 28, is recovering at home.

Mr. Mooney said he has “never been for a full repeal of the death penalty.”

Members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee are split evenly on the issue, with Mr. Mooney as the deciding vote.

Mr. Mooney said he is reading a book about Kirk Bloodsworth, the first man exonerated of a capital conviction based on DNA evidence, while pondering an amendment.

Supporters of a repeal on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee may join with Mr. Mooney in voting for a compromise, but the bill’s chief sponsor in the House said he would oppose such a move.

“We don’t think a compromise is acceptable,” said Delegate Samuel I. Rosenberg, Baltimore Democrat.

O’Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese, said “no decisions have been made” and what the governor does “will depend on what types of amendments [Mr. Mooney] decides to offer.”

The biggest obstacle to a repeal will likely be in the House. Judiciary Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr., Prince George’s Democrat, last moved a bill to repeal the death penalty in 2001, and supporters and opponents are unsure whether he will bring the repeal to a vote this year.

Said Delegate Christopher B. Shank, Western Maryland Republican: “You are dealing with people who have absolutely nothing to lose.”

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