Skip to main content

Md. death penalty repeal bill fails in committee

Resource type: News

The Associated Press State & Local Wire |

A bill to repeal capital punishment in Maryland failed in a Senate committee Friday, but the full Senate is still expected to vote on whether to take up the measure in a rarely used legislative move.

The 5-5 vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee mirrored a similar vote two years ago, despite Gov. Martin O’Malley’s push with his own legislation and a state commission’s report late last year recommending repeal.

Normally, legislation must receive a majority vote of support by a committee before the full Senate will take it up. But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who supports the death penalty, indicated the full Senate will consider it, regardless of the committee vote.

“In fairness to the proponents, in fairness to the governor of the state, in fairness to the people that want this issue heard and debated at least one time during the four-year term, we’re going to try to bring it out,” Miller told reporters shortly before the committee vote.

O’Malley, who wants to replace capital punishment with life in prison without possibility of parole, said he was looking ahead to next week’s vote in the Senate.

“While I am disappointed in the outcome, this was not unexpected,” the governor said of the committee’s vote in a statement.

O’Malley told a prayer breakfast before a Wednesday rally against capital punishment that he had 22 of the 24 votes he would need in the full Senate, and he was hoping lawmakers could still be persuaded.

Essentially, senators will vote on whether they believe the full Senate should take up the bill, even though it did not receive a favorable report in committee. That vote could happen as soon as Tuesday.

A majority vote of 24 senators would be needed to bring the bill out for debate before the full Senate.

The committee vote Friday came after senators rejected an amendment by Republican Sen. Alex Mooney, who was a potential swing vote. The amendment would have banned the death penalty, except in cases when prison inmates kill in a correctional facility.

Mooney cited the case of three-time murderer Kevin G. Johns, Jr., as a reason why he could not support a complete ban on capital punishment. Johns killed Philip Parker Jr. aboard a prison bus in 2005. Johns had killed his 16-year-old cellmate, Armad Cloude, in 2004. After killing Cloude, Johns had said he would kill again if he didn’t receive treatment.

“This guy’s killed two more people while in prison. There’s no debate that he did it. He’s going to kill again. That’s who it covers,” Mooney said, referring to his amendment.

Last year, a judge ruled Johns was insane at the time of the 2005 killing.

Sen. Lisa Gladden, D-Baltimore, said that likely would make him ineligible for the death penalty.

“That is an extraordinarily demented soul … You’re not going to be able to address that issue with the death penalty anyway,” Gladden said.

Maryland 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.

On the Net:

Read Senate Bill 279:

Related Resources


Death Penalty, Human Rights & Reconciliation

Global Impact:

United States