POLITICS

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley Commutes State's Remaining Death Penalties

WASHINGTON -- In one of his final acts as governor of the state of Maryland, Martin O'Malley has commuted the sentences of four death row inmates to life without parole.

The likely 2016 Democratic presidential candidate helped shepherd in the abolition of the death penalty in his state in 2013, arguing that it wasn't a deterrent for criminals, could end up being applied to innocent people, and was far more costly to the state than other punishments. But the change left in effect sentences that had already been issued, meaning that four people in Maryland convicted of murder remained on death row.

On Wednesday morning, O'Malley changed that, echoing an argument from the state's attorney general that it might be illegal for the state to go forward with the death penalty sentences now that the law has been changed. O'Malley said in a statement that he spoke with the family members of the victims of the murderers prior to deciding to commute their sentences. He added the following:

The question at hand is whether any public good is served by allowing these essentially un-executable sentences to stand.

In my judgment, leaving these death sentences in place does not serve the public good of the people of Maryland — present or future.

Gubernatorial inaction — at this point in the legal process — would, in my judgment, needlessly and callously subject survivors, and the people of Maryland, to the ordeal of an endless appeals process, with unpredictable twists and turns, and without any hope of finality or closure.

In the final analysis, there is one truth that stands between and before all of us. That truth is this — few of us would ever wish for our children or grandchildren to kill another human being or to take part in the killing of another human being. The legislature has expressed this truth by abolishing the death penalty in Maryland.

For these reasons, I intend to commute Maryland’s four remaining death sentences to life without the possibility of parole.

It is my hope that these commutations might bring about a greater degree of closure for all of the survivors and their families

Unlike O'Malley, incoming Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is a Republican. But he indicated during the campaign that he would not likely ask the state's legislature to reinstate the death penalty.

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BEFORE YOU GO

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    Until 2010, most states used a three-drug combination: an anesthetic (pentobarbital or sodium thiopental), a paralytic agent
    AP
    Until 2010, most states used a three-drug combination: an anesthetic (pentobarbital or sodium thiopental), a paralytic agent (pancuronium bromide) to paralyze the muscle system, and a drug to stop the heart (potassium chloride). Recently, European pharmaceutical companies have refused to sell drugs to the U.S. for use in lethal injections, requiring states to find new, untested alternatives.
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    Gas chambers, like this one pictured at the former Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Mo., were first used in the
    AP
    Gas chambers, like this one pictured at the former Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Mo., were first used in the U.S. in 1924. In the procedure, an inmate is sealed inside an airtight chamber which is then filled with toxic hydrogen cyanide gas. Oxygen starvation ultimately leads to death, but the inmate does not immediately lose consciousness.
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    The first electric chair was used in 1890. Electrodes attached to an inmate's body deliver a current of electricity. Sometime
    AP
    The first electric chair was used in 1890. Electrodes attached to an inmate's body deliver a current of electricity. Sometimes more than one jolt is required.
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    AP
    Hanging was used as the primary method of execution in the U.S. until the electric chair's invention in 1890. Death is typically caused by dislocation of the vertebrae or asphyxiation, but in cases when the rope is too long, the inmate can sometimes be decapitated. If too short, the inmate can take up to 45 minutes to die.
  • Firing Squad
    This Old West-style execution method dates back to the invention of firearms. In a typical scenario in the U.S., the inmate i
    AP
    This Old West-style execution method dates back to the invention of firearms. In a typical scenario in the U.S., the inmate is strapped to a chair. Five anonymous marksmen stand 20 feet away, aim rifles at the convict's heart, and shoot. One rifle is loaded with blanks.
  • Beheading
    Decapitation has been used in capital punishment for thousands of years. Above is the chopping block used for <a href="http:/
    Wikimedia Commons
    Decapitation has been used in capital punishment for thousands of years. Above is the chopping block used for beheadings at the Tower of London.
  • Guillotine
    Invented in France in the late 18th century during the French Revolution, the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/
    Kauko via Wikimedia Commons
    Invented in France in the late 18th century during the French Revolution, the guillotine was designed to be an egalitarian means of execution. It severed the head more quickly and efficiently than beheading by sword.
  • Hanging, Drawing and Quartering
    A punishment for men convicted of high treason,<a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/171149/drawing-and-quarteri
    Wikimedia Commons
    A punishment for men convicted of high treason, "hanging, drawing and quartering" was used in England between the 13th and 19th centuries. Men were dragged behind a horse, then hanged, disemboweled, beheaded, and chopped or torn into four pieces.
  • Slow Slicing
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    Carter Cutlery/Wikimedia Commons
    Also called "death by a thousand cuts," this execution method was used in China from roughly A.D. 900 until it was banned in 1905. The slicing took place for up to three days. It was used as punishment for treason and killing one's parents.
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    Wikimedia Commons
    Death by boiling goes back to the first century A.D., and was legal in the 16th century in England as punishment for treason. This method of execution involved placing the person into a large cauldron containing a boiling liquid such as oil or water.
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    Wikimedia Commons
    Crucifixion goes back to around the 6th century B.C.used today in Sudan. For this method of execution, a person is tied or nailed to a cross and left to hang. Death is slow and painful, ranging from hours to days.
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    Records show societies <a href="http://iws.collin.edu/mbailey/hammurabi's%20laws.htm" target="_blank">burning criminals alive
    Pat Canova via Getty Images
    Records show societies burning criminals alive as far back as the 18 century B.C. under Hammurabi's Code of Laws in Babylonia. It has been used as punishment for sexual deviancy, witchcraft, treason and heresy.
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    Execution by burial goes back to 260 B.C. in ancient China, when 400,000 were reportedly buried alive by the Qin dynasty. Dep
    Antoine Wiertz/Wikimedia Commons
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    Wikimedia Commons
    This ancient method of execution continues to be used as punishment for adultery today.
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    Wikimedia Commons
    This method was commonly used for many centuries in South and Southeast Asia, in which an elephant would crush and dismember convicts as a punishment for treason.
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    Michelangelo/Wikimedia Commons
    Records show flaying, the removal of skin from the body, was used as far back as the 9th century B.C.
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    Wikimedia Commons
    Records show this execution practice used as far back as the 18th century B.C., where a person is penetrated through the center of their body with a stake or pole.
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