Proponents of repeal of the death penalty have picked up a potentially pivotal vote in the Senate with the decision of Sen. Ronald N. Young of Frederick County to support an end to executions in Maryland.
In an interview last night, the previously undecided Young said he had made up his mind to vote for the bill backed by Gov. Martin O'Malley and to resist amendments aimed at thwarting full repeal.
"It's more costly to execute (murderers) than to keep them for life," Young said. He added that prison officials have told him that lifers frequently turn into model prisoners because they depend on the privileges they accumulate.
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Young, a freshman Democrat, was identified last week by Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian E. Frosh as perhaps the critical vote in reaching the 24 needed to pass the repeal bill. Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat, is a staunch repeal advocate.
Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, the sponsor of repeal bills in previous years, said she believes she will have 27 votes for the bill itself. The Baltimore Democrat said the challenge for death penalty opponents will be to stave off floor amendments creating various exceptions for certain types of murders.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who supports keeping the death penalty, has said he would ensure that the bill gets an up-or-down vote if the governor can muster enough support. In recent years, the measure has been bottled up in the Judicial Proceedings Committee. In 2009, an O'Malley-backed repeal bill reached the floor but was amended to keep capital punishment while tightening the evidentiary standards for imposition of the death penalty. This is the first year since then that the governor has decided to make an all-out push for full repeal.
Young narrowly won election in 2010 in a district that previously sent a conservative Republican to the Senate. But he said he wasn't concerned about political fallous from his vote.
"My district's not as conservative as some people think it is," he said. "If it's a moral issue. I vote the way I think is right."