Md. Senate panel weighs expanded death penalty
A Senate panel on Wednesday revisited legislation passed last year by the General Assembly that made Maryland's death penalty one of the most restrictive in the nation.
A bill considered by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty on the basis of fingerprint evidence or photographs linking a suspect to a murder.
Last year's legislation limited capital cases to those that include at least one of three types of evidence: DNA or biological evidence; a videotaped confession; or a videotape linking the suspect to the crime.
Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger (D) argued at Wednesday's hearing that death penalty cases should be able to be brought on the basis of fingerprints and photographs as well.
"It makes no logical sense to exclude these two classes of evidence," Shellenberger said.
But opponents of this year's bill, sponsored by Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr. (D-Baltimore County), argued that neither fingerprints nor photos are as reliable as the other evidence that was included in last year's compromise.
Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy (D) told the panel he would not prosecute a death penalty case solely based on fingerprint evidence.
Last year's legislation grew out of Gov. Martin O'Malley's unsuccessful push to repeal the death penalty. The Senate heavily amended the bill sought by O'Malley (D) to allow capital punishment to continue but only in cases that meet the higher evidentiary standards.
Stone's bill is supported by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) but its prospects remain uncertain. The committee has not indicated when it will vote on the bill.
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