By Maria Wiering
The Maryland Catholic Conference called the Senate passage of a bill to repeal the state’s death penalty March 6 “a momentous vote.”
“We are grateful to the many members of the Senate who considered this issue with great deliberation, and who followed their conscience in supporting repeal and the value of all human life,” MCC Executive Director Mary Ellen Russell said in a March 6 statement.
The MCC advocates for public policy on behalf of the state’s bishops, longtime supporters of ending capital punishment. The MCC has partnered with several state and national organizations to work to repeal the death penalty in Maryland.
The legislation passed with a vote of 27 to 20. The Senate has not voted on whether or not to have the death penalty since 1978.
The advancing legislation was introduced at the beginning of the Maryland General Assembly’s 2013 session at the request of Gov. Martin J. O’Malley. In December, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori wrote to the governor urging him to champion repeal this year.
The MCC and other organizations expect the bill to pass in the House of Delegates, causing Maryland to be the 18th state to eliminate the death penalty.
As the Senate debated the bill, attempts were made to amend the bill to allow for the death penalty in certain cases. The MCC wants the bill to pass the House unamended.
“The church in Maryland asks our delegates to move to full repeal over the last hurdle and across the finish line, and to let the light shine down on our state,” Russell said. “It is time for Maryland to end the death penalty, with no exception.”
The Senate-passed legislation was amended to remove a provision that would have allotted annual funds to aid murder victims’ families.
Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, said support for victims’ families is still a priority.
“Maryland does not provide adequate services to those who have been affected by severe crime, and we will continue to press legislators to allocate money for these necessary resources,” she said in a March 6 statement. “We urge the governor and Legislature to make sure there is more money to fund these critical programs.”
If the legislation passes, the maximum sentence in the state would be life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Copyright (c) March 6, 2013 CatholicReview.org