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MD Death Penalty May Come to the Fore

John Wagner and Eric Rich
December 24, 2006; Page C01
The Washington Post


The emotionally charged, polarizing issue of the death penalty was barely mentioned during the campaign for Maryland governor. And it hardly seemed something that Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley would be eager to wade into during his first months in office, when he plans to focus on "the things we agree on."

Yet the confluence of national currents and a Maryland court ruling last week halting executions on a technicality could make the death penalty a defining issue of O'Malley's tenure.

In effect, Maryland suddenly has a moratorium on executions, and the new governor, who is personally opposed to capital punishment, could play a pivotal role in determining when -- and whether -- it resumes.

"I think the chances of someone being executed on O'Malley's watch decrease very significantly as a result of the court's opinion," said Timothy Maloney, a lawyer and former Prince George's County delegate.

That's due largely to a broad shift in dynamics that has sprung from a narrow ruling.

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