Former AG to Lead Death Penalty Panel
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) yesterday tapped a former U.S. attorney general to lead a panel examining Maryland's death penalty, opening another chapter in the state's long-running legal and political drama over the issue.
Benjamin R. Civiletti, who served under President Carter, was introduced at an Annapolis news conference along with others chosen by O'Malley and legislative leaders to serve on the 23-member Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, which the General Assembly created this year.
The diverse group -- which includes law-enforcement officials, religious leaders and family members of murder victims -- is expected to make recommendations to the legislature before it reconvenes in January and death penalty opponents try for the third year in a row since O'Malley's arrival to abolish capital punishment.
"I think the legislature will be very interested in hearing from this commission," said O'Malley, who has urged a deeply divided legislature to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Death penalty proponents did not criticize the commission directly yesterday but suggested its aim was transparent.
"Obviously, there are some very good people who have been appointed to serve," said House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell (R-Calvert). "However, it has been my fear from the beginning that Governor O'Malley is using this as a pretense and justification to try to abolish the death penalty."
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) praised the choice of Civiletti as chairman, saying his reputation as "a facilitator and a mediator" would help guide deliberations.
"In my 22 years in Annapolis, I don't think there's been anything debated more passionately," said Busch, who has supported capital punishment but expressed concerns about disparities in its application.
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