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Panel Leaders Detail Death Penalty Concerns

The leaders of a legislative review panel detailed concerns in a letter Friday about death penalty regulations drafted by the O'Malley administration, posing questions about the drugs involved in lethal injections, among other issues.

The Post reported this week that the panel had put the regulations on hold with the blessing of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who opposes capital punishment. Implementation of the regulations are needed to end what has been a nearly three-year de facto moratorium on the death penalty in Maryland.

Critics have charged that O'Malley and other death penalty opponents are deliberately slowing the process to extend the moratorium, which began with a ruling by the state's highest court that the old procedures for lethal injection had not been adopted properly.

The letter, signed by Del. Anne Healey (D-Prince George's) and Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's), the co-chairmen of the panel, asks for responses from Gary D. Maynard, O'Malley's secretary of public safety and correctional services, in four areas:

  • Internal procedures. Healey and Pinsky say they are seeking more information about procedures that are not explicitly spelled out in the proposed regulations. The level of specificity was an issue raised in the court ruling that prompted the moratorium.
  • Drug protocol. The co-chairmen question why the regulations call for lethal injections using a three-drug protocol when they say the state's death penalty statute "calls for the use of two drugs." Healey and Pinksy also raise questions about the proposed use of paralytic drugs that are banned in animal euthanasia in Maryland.
  • Training of lethal injection personnel. Healey and Pinsky contend the regulations are "vague on the issue of medical training" and cite the recent failed execution attempt in Ohio. They argue that "adequate training of the department lethal injection team is of utmost importance so that this situation does not happen in this state."
  • The department's review of other states' practices. The co-chairmen request information on what information Maynard reviewed in drafting Maryland's new regulations, and ask him to "please explain how the current lethal injection protocol differs from the protocol in place before."

The letter closes by saying "we look forward to further discussion and dialogue with the department on this profoundly important matter."

UPDATE 1:10 p.m.: Corrections spokesman Rick Binetti said Friday afternoon that "we will cooperate with the committee and provide any information they ask."

By John Wagner  |  October 16, 2009; 11:05 AM ET
Categories:  John Wagner  
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