Wednesday, April 07, 2010

2010 Death Penalty Expansion Bills Defeated in Maryland

MD Case 
Action Alert

Say thanks to legislators who voted against 2010 expansion bills!

Momentum against the death penalty continued into the 2010 legislative session as ALL bills to expand Maryland’s law were rejected in committees in both houses by wide margins. Two House bills and one Senate bill were voted down on March 18 and 19, respectively. 

Indicative of the House of Delegates’ majority support for repeal, its Judiciary Committee rejected HB 994 by a vote of 15-6. This bill would have recklessly added the undefined term “scientific” to the State’s evidence requirements for prosecuting a death sentence. Just last year, the General Assembly narrowed such evidence to “biological” or DNA evidence, a videotaped interrogation and confession to murder, or a videotape of the murder itself. 

House Judiciary also voted down, 13 to 8, HB 404, which sought to add an aggravating factor to Maryland’s death penalty law: the murder of a child during the commission of any sexual offense. Maryland’s law already includes kidnapping of a child and rape, regardless of the victims age, as aggravating factors that can make a murder death eligible. 

Meanwhile, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee ultimately rejected 2 to 9 a bill heavily backed by Senate President Miller. SB 404 would have added evidence to the narrowed list above, allowing an execution on the basis of a fingerprint or photograph. The March 10 hearing on the bill was particularly informative on the highly subjective and standardless nature of fingerprint analysis. Witnesses included internationally recognized fingerprint expert Dr. Itiel Dror

The vote count on SB 404 appeared too close to call right up to the Committee’s voting session on March 19. Then Committee Chair Brian Frosh offered an amendment requiring that aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors of a murder “beyond a reasonable doubt,” replacing the current lesser standard of “a preponderance of the evidence,” for a death sentence to be imposed. When the amendment narrowly passed, the bill was no longer palatable to even its sponsor, Senator Norman Stone, or other hard line death penalty supporters on the Committee. Hence the final vote was 2-9 against the bill.

The 2010 legislative session ends next Monday, April 12. 

Please take a moment to thank your Senator and Delegate(s) with a phone call, email and/or letter IF they voted against death penalty expansion. (Those who voted against expansion are listed below. Find your district at the end of this email or visit 

Tell your legislators: “Thanks for voting against expansion of the death penalty this year. I urge you to vote for full repeal of capital punishment in 2011!” 

Senators voting AGAINST death penalty expansion bill in Judicial Proceedings Committee:
Brian E. Frosh, (District 16, Montgomery County ) Chair
Lisa A. Gladden
, (District 41, Baltimore City ) Vice-Chair
James Brochin
(District 42, Baltimore County)
Jennie M. Forehand (District 17, Montgomery County)
Larry E. Haines (District 5, Baltimore County & Carroll County)
Nancy Jacobs (District 34, Cecil & Harford Counties)
C. Anthony Muse (District 26, Prince George's County)
Jamin B. (Jamie) Raskin (District 20, Montgomery County)
Norman R. Stone, Jr. (District 6, Baltimore County)

Delegates voting AGAINST death penalty expansion bills in Judiciary Committee:
Joseph F. Vallario, Jr.
, (District 27A, Clavert & Prince George’s Counties)
(made motion for “unfavorable” vote on both bills; generally does not vote)
Samuel I. Rosenberg, Vice-Chair (District 41, Baltimore City)
Curtis S. (Curt) Anderson
(District 43, Baltimore City)
Benjamin S. Barnes (District 21, Anne Arundel & Prince George’s Counties)
Jill P. Carter (District 41, Baltimore City)
Frank M. Conaway, Jr. (District 40, Baltimore City)
Kathleen M. Dumais (District 15, Montgomery County)
Don H. Dwyer, Jr. (District 31, Anne Arundel County)
William J. Frank* (District 42, Baltimore County)
Benjamin F. Kramer (District 19, Montgomery County)
Susan C. Lee (District 16, Montgomery County)
Gerron S. Levi* (District 23A, Prince George's County)
Victor R. Ramirez (District 47, Prince George’s County)
Todd L. Schuler (District 8, Baltimore County)
Luiz R. S. Simmons (District 17, Montgomery County)
Kriselda Valderrama (District 26, Prince George's County)
Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher (District 18, Montgomery County)
*Voted FOR HB 306 but against HB 994. Share you disappointment AND thanks.

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