The Maryland General Assembly has approved a measure to ban capital punishment. The House Delegates voted 82 to 56 on Friday to pass a bill already approved by the Senate. That sends the bill to Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is expected to sign it. Frederick County States Attorney Charlie Smith says this action will make his job much more difficult. "And we are not going to be able to seek the death penalty in cases, for example, like Sonja Daniels when she shoots a mother and a very young infant point blank, in the face, with a handgun. It's a sad day for victims in the State of Maryland," said Smith.
Maryland would become the 18th state to abolish the death penalty. Supporters of repeal argue that capital punishment is costly, error-prone, racially biased and a poor deterrent. Opponents say it's a necessary tool to punish those who commit the most egregious crimes.
Maryland has five men on death row, though the measure approved Friday makes it clear the Governor can commute their sentences to life in prison. The state's last execution took place in 2005, during the administration of Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich.