January 27

Does Maryland Have The Death Penalty?

The death penalty, also known as Capital Punishment, is the legal provision that allows a person to be put to death by the state as justice for a crime. When a judge passes a sentence it is known as a death sentence, which then becomes an act known as an execution.

Many countries around the world have outlawed the use of capital punishment, but in the United States, there are some states that still allow it. 

The death penalty is one of the most controversial human rights topics discussed in the west today, with many points of the contest on each side. Some say that all of the states should outlaw it, with others arguing that it is morally right depending on the severity of the crime. As of 2021 27 of the 50 states have the death penalty. 

Here is a short exploration on the death penalty in Maryland including whether it’s legal now, some of its history, as well as a short FAQ section to answer any of the most important questions you might have. 

In short – no. Maryland was the 18th U.S state to outlaw capital punishment. It happened in 2013 when Governor O’Malley signed a bill that banned the use of capital punishment. It was replaced with the sentence of life without parole, which means life in prison without a chance of being released.

How Was The Death Penalty Abolished In Maryland?

On the 15th of March 2013, the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill that abolished all capital punishment in the state. Senate Bill 276, was written to remove all mention of capital punishment from the laws and code of Maryland.

Governor O’Malley’s office stated about the change of legislation that ‘Maryland has effectively eliminated a policy that is proven not to work.’

The thought behind the abolition of the death penalty was that it does not help to deter crime, nor that it can be carried out without bias (racial or otherwise), and that it costs three times as much as life without parole.

At the time of the death penalty’s abolition, there were 5 men waiting on death row. In January 2015, Governor Martin O’Malley commuted the sentence of four men to life on parole. The final man of the 5 died of natural causes before this. 

History Of The Death Penalty In Maryland

The existence of the death penalty within the united states has its roots in early colonial Virginia, though you can trace it further back to Europe to laws that settlers would have lived under in previous centuries. 

As for Maryland, the first recorded execution was that of four people who were hung in 1773 for the murder of their master.

Since then, the death penalty was brought to issue in the 1800s when the state came up with classifications for different types of murder – what we now know today as ‘degrees.’ 

They would sentence people to death for first-degree murder, that is to say, a murder that has been carried out in cold blood. After that, the death penalty was most commonly enforced with public hangings up until 1913, when executions were brought into private spaces.

Executions have not been public since then, and all executions in Maryland have been private. 

In 1955 the Maryland government made the choice to switch the form of execution from hanging to gas inhalation, as it was believed to be more humane. Since 1957 a total of four men were executed with gas. In 1994, the method was changed to lethal injection. 

Does Maryland Have The Death Penalty?

How The Abolition Of The Death Penalty Happened

Of course, the topic of the death penalty in Maryland had long been a subject of intense debate, but it wasn’t until 2008 that the Maryland General Assembly created the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment.

This commission was made to provide advice and guidance towards the ethical use of capital punishment – ensuring that any death sentence was free from bias and error. 

The commission went through several hearings, which culminated in a final report to the general assembly. In December 2008 the report was released with strong advice to abolish capital punishment in the state of Maryland.

This was the first real step in getting the Senate to seriously consider the abolition of the death penalty, but as with all things in state politics – the wheels turn slowly.

It wasn’t until 2013, 5 years later, that the Maryland State Senate would vote on the issue. They voted 27-20 in favor of a new bill that would repeal the death penalty for future offenders.

Just over a week later, the House approved the legislation and it was then sent to Governor O’Malley, who signed it into law two months later. At this moment Maryland became the 18th state in the United States to outlaw the death penalty. 

Final Thoughts

The death penalty has for the longest time been a difficult subject with many arguments on both sides of the coin. It is however clear that in recent years we have seen a decline in the willingness of states to participate in capital punishment, with many abolishing the law since the early 2000s.

The abolishment of Maryland is one small part of this modern trend, and it could be a sign of things to come for other states who have historically used the death penalty to punish first-degree murder. 

We hope this article has given you the information you needed regarding Maryland and the status of the death penalty, as well as some of the history surrounding this decision. Below is a short FAQ section to answer some of the surrounding questions we didn’t already cover in the article. 

FAQ

Who Was The Last Person To Be Executed In Maryland? 

The last death sentence in Maryland took place in 2005 when Wesley Eugene Baker – a convicted murderer – was executed via lethal injection. 

Why Did Maryland Abolish The Death Penalty?

The main reason that Maryland abolished the death penalty was the belief that it does not deter crime. The governor’s office argued that the death penalty cannot ever be reversed if an innocent person is put to death and that it is difficult to ensure the quality of accuracy and lack of bias needed to carry out an execution. 

How Many States Have The Death Penalty?

As of 2021, 27 states still have the death penalty, though in recent years more states are beginning to abolish it such as New Mexico in 2009, Illinois in 2011, Connecticut in 2012, Maryland in 2013, New Hampshire in 2019, Colorado in 2020 and Virginia in 2021.

Though all of these states have had different laws regarding capital punishment throughout their histories, the reasons for abolishing it are similar. 

Of the states that do still have the death penalty, Texas has the most executions with 563 carried out since 1976. 

Though not states, it is also important to point out that both the federal government and the U.S. Military also have capital punishment laws, though these work differently from the laws of specific states. 



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