A Republican Washington County delegate, with help from Democrats, is mounting a challenge to the repeal of the death penalty, a measure that was signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley earlier this week.
Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, announced the start of a petition drive at a press conference in Baltimore on Friday. With him were Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger, a Democrat, and Sen. James Brochin, D-Baltimore County.
“Life is extremely precious ... but, for example, if someone does something like the attack on the Boston marathon, they deserve the death penalty,” Parrott said, noting that the press conference was held not far from the finishing line of the Baltimore Marathon.
Shellenberger, Parrott and Brochin made the announcement from behind a red sign with the words “What If?” With the warehouse of Oriole Park at Camden Yards behind them, Parrott said the purpose of the sign was to ask state residents whether they would prefer to have the death penalty on the books for criminals guilty of the worst of the worst crimes.
Parrott said: “The question we have today is, ‘What if?’ What if it was the Baltimore Marathon bombing? What if a bombing occurred right here at Camden Yards?”
He said with the repeal, there would be no effective punishment for those inmates who are already serving a life sentence and then kill a correctional officer or another inmate.
Parrott is the chair of MDpetitions.com, and has previously used the website to collect petitions that led to measures such as same-sex marriage and another on instate tuition for students being put on the ballot during the 2012 elections.
A total of 55,736 certified petitions will be needed by the end of June to put the issue on the ballot for the elections in November 2014.
A third of those petitions are due by the end of May, Parrott said.
“We’ve never started a petition drive this late ... are we going to be succesful? I don’t know but we are going to try,” he said.
Sen. Ronald N. Young, D-Frederick/Washington, who voted for the repeal of the death penalty during the 2013 session of the Maryland General Assembly, said that the growth of the Internet has made the petition process much easier.
“I don’t think we want to reach a situation where we are governing by referendum. We should not be second-guessing every decision made by the legislature,” Young said. “But that’s the law right now and they [Parrott and others] have the right to launch a petition drive.”
Shellenberger said that he wanted Marylanders to decide whether the state should have the death penalty, according to the Associated Press.
“We need to retain Maryland’s death penalty for those prosecutors who want to seek it in the appropriate case,” said Shellenberger, who successfully prosecuted a capital case in Baltimore County and has been a strong supporter of the death penalty.
Brochin said he would be taking the question to constituents in his district and urging them to sign the petition.
“I’m going to be taking this case to the community associations,” Brochin said. “I’m going to be taking this case to the rotaries.”
Opponents of capital punishment pledged to fight to uphold the legislation.
“Make no mistake,” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous said in a statement. “If this goes to referendum, the NAACP and countless allies throughout Maryland will be there to fight.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.