Gov. Martin O'Malley announced his plans to "kill the death penalty" inside a crowded room at the Miller Senate Building in Annapolis on Tuesday.
"It would seem to me that in—especially in—tough times, if there's something that we're doing in our government that is expensive and does not work, then we should stop doing it," O'Malley said. "The death penalty is expensive, and it does not work. And for that reason alone I believe we should stop doing it."
Maryland has a moratorium on executions, and the state last executed a person in 2005. O'Malley pointed to a decrease in violent crime in the seven years since as evidence that life without the possible of parole could be effective as a maximum penalty.
"Good people on both sides of this issue have in the past disagreed about the effectiveness of the death penalty," O'Malley said "I think there is increasingly less disagreement about its effectiveness, especially within our state."
He also took a pragmatic approach to the issue noting that the prosecution of a death penalty case costs the taxpayers of Maryland three times as much as the prosecution of a case where the penalty is life without parole.
NAACP president Benjamin Jealous viewed Maryland's potential shift on the death penalty in the context of what he views as an upcoming argument for the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Abolishing the death penalty in Maryland, replacing it with the possibility of life without parole, moves us closer to being able to abolish it in the nation as whole," Jealous said. "It is only through abolishing it here ... that we can approach the point where we will be able to go into the Supreme Court and say finally that majority of states have ended this practice and therefore it is no longer merely cruel it is also unusual and therefore should be banned under the 8th Amendment to the constitution."
Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-Mitchellville), who chairs the state's black caucus, promised that "if [a bill] gets to the floor, we will pass it."
But Del. Nic Kipke (R-Pasadena), who chairs Anne Arundel County's delegation, seemed less certain.
"It won't pass," Kipke said. "Practically speaking, Maryland doesn't use the death penalty now ... all of these things you are seeing from the governor’s office are not about the quality of life in Maryland, they are about him running for president."
The key vote in the Senate for a repeal of the death penalty may come from another Anne Arundel County legislator.
Sen. Ed Reilly (R-Crofton) replaced Sen. Janet Greenip (R-Crofton), who was in favor of the death penalty. According to The Capital Gazette, Reilly plans to vote for the ban because he believes executions are immoral.