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Last 4 on Maryland death row to have sentences commuted

December 31, 2014

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (AP) — Maryland’s outgoing governor said Wednesday he will commute the capital sentences of the state’s last four inmates on death row to life in prison, saying executing them “does not serve the public good of the people of Maryland.”

Two years ago, the state’s legislature abolished the death penalty in Maryland, making the ultimate sentence in new cases life in prison without the possibility of parole.

That left four previously sentenced inmates on death row.

Gov. Martin O’Malley noted in a statement that outgoing Attorney General Doug Gansler recently asserted that carrying out prior sentences would be illegal in the absence of an existing statute.

“The question at hand is whether any public good is served by allowing these essentially un-executable sentences to stand,” O’Malley said in his statement. “In my judgment, leaving these death sentences in place does not serve the public good of the people of Maryland — present or future.”

The governor said he had met or spoken with many of the relatives of the people killed by the inmates, and he thanked them for talking with him about the cases.

But he said that his failing to act at this point in the legal process would “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.”

Only five Maryland inmates were executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978.

O’Malley, a Democrat, will leave office next month after having served two terms, the limit in Maryland. Gansler will leave office at the same time after a failed bid for the Democratic nomination for governor.

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