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Politics and the Death Penalty


Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley, who personally opposes the death penalty, said Monday he was looking to the courts for guidance on whether lethal injection amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in Maryland.

Tuesday he got some guidance.

Maryland's highest court sidestepped the question of whether the punishment was humane and ruled that the procedures set up for lethal injection executions in Maryland need public input before they can be approved.

That means that before executions can proceed in Maryland, outgoing Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. or the new O'Malley administration must call a hearing on the lethal injection protocol or the General Assembly must pass legislation saying that the execution procedures are exempt from the state law requiring such public input.

Which moves the issue from the legal to the political realm.

The ruling comes a week after decisions in Florida and California to suspend executions.

In addition to the death penalty case before the Court of Appeals, the state's lethal injection procedure is being challenged in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Attorneys for death row inmate Vernon Evans Jr. contend that the current procedure could cause their client horrific pain because his veins are badly damaged from years of intravenous drug use.

Maryland Citizens Against State Executions cited the Florida and California actions yesterday in calling on O'Malley and state lawmakers to repeal the death penalty in the coming legislative session.

John Wagner

By Phyllis Jordan  |  December 19, 2006; 1:34 PM ET
Categories:  Governor  
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