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Maryland's Death Penalty: It's time to discuss giving it up

Staff Editorial
December 27, 2006; Page A18
The Washington Post

THE MARYLAND COURT of Appeals has thrown a big wrench into the state's already anemic death penalty enforcement. It ruled last week that Maryland's procedures for lethal injection were adopted without adequate legislative oversight. With that ruling, which will effectively halt executions until new procedures are adopted, the Maryland court joined what is fast becoming a national trend. Earlier this month, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) halted executions there after a botched lethal injection took over half an hour. A court in California blocked use of that state's execution cocktail. Nationally, there have been fewer executions this year than in any in the past decade -- and delays associated with challenges to lethal-injection protocols, which are now said to cause significant pain, constitute one of the reasons for the low figure.

For those of us who oppose capital punishment, any public debate that slows the wheels of death is a good thing. That said, this issue seems more than a little absurd. Leaving aside the technicalities of Maryland administrative law, it is a little tough to understand why states that have no scruples about killing people as punishment for their crimes might blanch at a brief period of discomfort for the condemned along the way. This is, after all, the intentional infliction of death; why should anyone expect it to be pretty? The sudden scruples around the country about the fact that taking human life may actually involve pain can only be understood as a surrogate for the real issue: whether Americans want to be taking life at all.

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