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Gov. Martin O'Malley makes plea against death penalty

Tuesday - 1/15/2013, 10:24pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Four years after he unsuccessfully sought to repeal Maryland's death penalty, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced his administration will try again.

Surrounded by supporters at a news conference in Annapolis, he declared that "the death penalty is expensive and does not work."

"For that reason alone, I believe we should stop doing that," O'Malley said as supporters applauded. "I will be filing to repeal the death penalty".

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, whose cousin Cathy was murdered by an ex-boyfriend in Montgomery County in 2008, voiced his support.

"Abolishing the death penalty does not dishonor the victims of violent crime, and in their memory, we must remain committed to tough and appropriate punishments," he said.

But Sen. Jim Brochin disagrees. He says most state's attorneys want to keep the death penalty as a valuable prosecutorial tool. The focus, he said, continues to be on criminals and "the worst of the worst."

"The victims are left to languish," he said. "It just blows my mind."

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, on the other hand, delivered an emotional message of support for repealing the death penalty. Referring to his wife, an attorney who spent much of her career working to abolish the death penalty and now suffers from Alzheimer's, he said he hopes to be able to share the news with her.

"I don't know if she will know if we pass this bill this year, but if we abolish the death penalty, and I can go home to my wife and let her know that ... I know I will be happy," he said. "I know she will, and I thank you for your efforts."

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett also spoke.

"It's been stated that the death penalty was wrong from birth. Unfortunately, it has survived," he said. "It is now our responsibility to put a stake through its heart and kill it."

Four years ago, the governor's repeal measure never made it out of the Senate. This year, before the General Assembly session even started, O'Malley was approached by national NAACP president Benjamin Jealous for support of a repeal bill.

At that time, Jealous said the governor wanted to see that the Senate had the 24 necessary votes to pass the bill. As of last week, they had 22 votes.

But after Tuesday's announcement, Sen. Jamin Raskin joked they might even be up to 24.5 votes.

Raskin says he is confident the bill will pass, but there's "a long and curving road ahead."

O'Malley, who made the announcement on Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, invoked the late civil rights leader's pleas for nonviolence. He quoted from King in his speech:

"Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction."

WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @KateRyanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)