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Ruling opens possibility of indefinite end to executions

Jennifer McMenamin and Josh Mitchell
December 22, 2006
Baltimore Sun


In a legal swirl with racial overtones and claims of startling evidence being given short shrift, it was perhaps the most technical of findings: The checklist used when executing a prisoner in Maryland is a "regulation."

But that determination was enough for Maryland's highest court to order a temporary halt in executions, possibly opening the way for public debate and legislative oversight.

Now, activists on both sides of the death penalty debate and some state lawmakers wonder whether the ruling could, in a roundabout way, lead to an indefinite freeze on executions in Maryland.

With a death penalty opponent headed to the governor's mansion next month, and questions being raised about lethal injection in states across the country, activists and lawmakers say efforts to address the Maryland Court of Appeals' concerns may simply languish -- and opponents of capital punishment may seize the chance to step up their efforts to repeal the death penalty.

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