Maryland votes to end death penalty
Maryland is poised to become the 18th US state to abolish executions after lawmakers voted Friday to end use of the death penalty.
The Maryland House of Delegates voted 88 to 56 in favor of abolishing executions, after the state Senate passed the same bill earlier this month.
The measure now only needs to be signed by Governor Martin O'Malley to become law, a formality as the top elected official in the eastern US state has been an enthusiastic supporter of abolition.
O'Malley hailed the vote to abolish a policy "that is proven not to work."
"Evidence shows that the death penalty is not a deterrent, it cannot be administered without racial bias and it costs three times as much as life in prison without parole," the governor said in a statement.
"What's more, there is no way to reverse a mistake if an innocent person is put to death."
Maryland's rejection of the death penalty "adds to the national momentum against this cruel and increasingly unusual punishment," said Antonio Ginatta, US advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.
"Governor O'Malley should demonstrate his commitment to the new law by commuting the death sentences of the five men currently on death row."
HRW noted that the men could still be executed after exhausting all their appeals because the repeal bill does not make provisions for them.
The death penalty has been in use in Maryland since 1638, when the territory was a British colony.
However, Maryland has neither executed a prisoner nor issued a death penalty since 2005.
O'Malley will make a case-by-case decision regarding five inmates in Maryland who are currently on death row.
Death Penalty Information Center executive director Richard Dieter has said he expects O'Malley to rule against executing the remaining prisoners.
"Since he is the one pushing the repeal, he is very likely to commute their sentences to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole," Dieter said.
Last year, Connecticut became the 17th state to repeal the death penalty, meaning nearly two thirds of America's 50 states have now renounced executions.