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AG: Sentences of four remaining death row inmates should be vacated

History was made here in the state of Maryland back in 2013 when state lawmakers voted to abolish the death penalty, meaning that the maximum sentence that can now be handed down in the criminal courts is life without the possibility of parole.

While you might think that the actions of the General Assembly would effectively end any and all debate on the issue of capital punishment, there is still ongoing legal action concerning the fate of the state's four remaining death row inmates.

Indeed, the matter recently made headlines after Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler filed a brief in support of an appeal filed by one of these four inmates with the Court of Special Appeals requesting that his death sentence be vacated and a new sentence handed down. 

Here, the two parties argue that the state is essentially lacking the authority to carry out the execution as the abolishment of capital punishment essentially served to strip it of the power to issue regulations in this area.

This is significant, they argue, because a state court essentially struck down all of Maryland's procedures for lethal injection as unconstitutional back in 2006. However, state lawmakers failed to adopt new regulations, meaning there are currently no real regulations governing the process.

The two sides argue that this reality of "uncertain enforceability" regarding capital punishment coupled with the aforementioned inability to issue regulations represents a clear threat to due process.

"Right now, even if everybody said, 'These are the worst people; they should be executed tomorrow,' there's no ability to do that," said Gansler.

It is worth noting that the two sides do diverge regarding re-sentencing, however, with the inmate seeking the possibility of release at some point and Gansler arguing that a life sentence without parole is the appropriate punishment.

Gansler also suggested out that the entire issue could perhaps be resolved if outgoing-Governor Martin O'Malley commuted the four death sentences to life without parole. However, O'Malley, who supported the repeal of capital punishment, declined comment on this suggestion.

It will be interesting to see what transpires concerning this important matter and the actions taken by the four death row inmates, all of whom are now seeking some sort of legal remedy.

If someone you love is under investigation or has been arrested on suspicion of committing a violent crime, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Gansler argues state must vacate sentences of death row inmates," Justin Fenton, Nov. 6, 2014  

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