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Opponents file new bills to abolish death penalty in Maryland

ANNAPOLIS — Two staunch death-penalty opponents have again introduced legislation to abolish capital punishment in Maryland.

Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg and Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, both Baltimore Democrats, have been unsuccessful in prior efforts to repeal the ultimate sanction.

But Rosenberg expressed confidence that this year will be different.

“We did not have [the necessary] 24 votes for repeal in the Senate two years ago when a weakening floor amendment was adopted,” he stated in an e-mail message sent to constituents this month. “We do now, after the election last November. Then and now, we’ve had majority support in the House.”

Gladden, however, voiced pessimism about the identical proposals, each dated Monday. She said the repeal effort lacks majority support in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which serves as the gatekeeper for death-penalty bills headed to the Senate floor.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed, though,” Gladden said Tuesday.

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a March 15 hearing on Rosenberg’s repeal measure, House Bill 1075.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee has not yet scheduled a hearing on Gladden’s legislation, Senate Bill 837.

Prior to this session, the lawmakers’ most recent effort to abolish capital punishment fell short in 2009. Their legislation that year, however, did lead to a compromise that limits the cases that are death penalty-eligible.

Under the law that emerged, the death penalty can be imposed only when the murderer’s conviction is based on DNA evidence; a videotaped, voluntary confession; or a video recording that conclusively links the defendant to the murder.