Death Penalty: No
On March 6, 2013, Maryland's Senate voted 27-20 to repeal the death penalty. Photo by Richard Dieter.
The first execution in Maryland was that of four servants who were hung in 1773 for the slaying of their master. The death penalty was re-evaluated in the early 1800's, when the state established degrees of murder, allowing the death penalty only for individuals convicted of first degree murder. The death penalty was carried out by public hanging until 1913, when hangings were moved to a private space. About 50 years later, the gas chamber was briefly used as the primary method of execution, but only 4 individuals were executed that way. In 1994, lethal injection became the primary method of execution, starting with John Frederick Thanos, the first person to be executed in Maryland since 1961.
Kirk Bloodsworth was the first death row inmate to be exonerated based on DNA evidence. He was convicted in 1984 for the rape and murder of a 9-year old girl. He spent 2 years on death row before being resentenced to life in prison. Throughout his almost nine years in prison, he insisted that he was "an innocent man" and signed all of his letters with that acronym, "A.I.M." In 1993, he was exonerated when DNA testing revealed that the semen found on the victim's clothing did not match Bloodsworth. When he was released, the state compenated Bloodsworth for the time he spent in prison. The $300,000 compensation mostly went to legal fees.
Eugene Colvin-el was sentenced to death for the brutal murder of 82-year old Lena Buckman. After exhausting his appeals process, there was only a month left until his execution was to be carried out. Then-Governor Parris Glendening commuted Colvin's sentence to life in prison without parole despite the fact that he was "almost certain" that Colvin committed the crime. Glendening believed that being "almost certain" was not sufficient to justify a death sentence.
On January 20, 2015, Governor Martin O'Malley commuted the sentences of all four men remaining on Maryland's death row to life in prison. The state's abolition bill had not been retroactive, leaving 5 men under a sentence of death. One of the men died of natural causes before the remaining death sentences were commuted.
Milestones in abolition/reinstatement
In 1987, Maryland passed a law that prohibited juvelines from being sentenced to death and provided the option of life without parole for cases involving capital crimes.
In 1989, the state passed a provision banning the execution of intellectually disabled individuals.
In 2002, Governor Parris Glendening declared a moratorium on executions. The moratorium was lifted by his successor, Governor Robert Ehrlich.
In 2009, after nearly passing abolition legislation, Maryland instituted the tightest death penalty restrictions in the country. The law limits capital cases to those with biological or DNA evidence of guilt, a videotaped confession, or a videotape linking the defendant to a homicide.
Maryland's legislature passed a death penalty repeal bill in March, 2013. The bill was signed by Governor Martin O'Malley on May 2, 2013.
Other interesting facts
Since 1923, all of the inmates executed in Maryland have been men.