Archbishop Lori urges death penalty repeal

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori asked the governor to push a death penalty repeal in the legislative session that starts in January, offering his support in a letter that was hand delivered to the state house this morning.

"I urge you to again make repealing the death penalty a priority for your legislative goals this year," wrote Lori, who is currently in Rome.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, tried in 2009 to end executions in Maryland, but fell short in the Senate. Instead the legislature adopted a compromise that requires DNA evidence or a taped confession before capital punishment is sought.

Separately, the governor met for 45 minutes this morning with NAACP President Ben Jealous -- who also urged the governor to push for a death penalty repeal.

Politically, repeal of the death penalty could be a way to bring together two powerful constituencies that were split on legalizing same-sex marriage: Blacks and Catholics.

The NAACP leadership supported same-sex marriage, but many other leaders in the black community did not. African-American leaders have a longer history of battling to end executions. Four of the five people on death row in Maryland are black.

The Catholic Church -- and Lori personally -- fought hard against same-sex marriage. Lori wrote that in the future he is "hopeful" that the two can "work together." He noted that the church has "long and vigorously" promoted ending the death penalty "as a means of furthering the culture of life in our state."

Takirra Winfield, a spokeswoman for O'Malley, confirmed that the governor received the letter -- but there's not word on a meeting.

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