“Todos los cristianos y hombres de buena voluntad están llamadas hoy a trabajar no sólo por la abolición de la pena de muerte, sino también para mejorar las condiciones de las cárceles, en el respeto de la dignidad humana de las personas privadas de libertad.” - Papa Francisco
Maryland began executions in colonial times, and capital punishment was carried out by public hanging until 1913, when hangings were moved to a private space. About 50 years later, the gas chamber was briefly used as the primary method of execution. 309 people were killed prior to the 1972 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court striking down several states’ death penalty laws as unconstitutional. Maryland reenacted its death penalty in 1975, but the first execution was not until 1994, also when lethal injection became the primary method of execution.
There have only been five executions since 1976. In 2002, Gov. Parris Glendening halted executions by an executive order so that a study of the death penalty could be conducted – a study which showed racial and socioeconomic disparities in its application in Maryland. However, Glendening’s successor, Gov. Robert Ehrlich, ended the moratorium and resumed executions in 2004.
In 2008, the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, established by the state assembly, recommended that the state repeal capital punishment due to the real possibility of the execution of innocent persons, and due to racial disparities. One year later, after nearly passing abolishing legislation, the Maryland General Assembly passed and Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the tightest death penalty restrictions in the country, limiting capital cases to those with biological or DNA evidence of guilt, a videotaped confession, or a videotape linking the defendant to a homicide.
After being turned aside several times in the legislative process, a bill abolishing the death penalty was signed into law by Gov. O’Malley in May 2013. In 2015, Governor Martin O'Malley commuted the sentences of all four men remaining on Maryland's death row to life in prison.
For more information and ways to get involved, contact your state's organizations:
The Maryland Catholic Conference advocates for the Church’s public policy positions before the Maryland General Assembly and other civil officials.
Maryland Citizens against State Executions is a coalition of groups and individuals united to end the death penalty in Maryland through education, grassroots action, and public demonstration.