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Delegates split in death penalty vote

Maryland became the 18th state to abolish the death penalty when the House of Delegates voted 82-56 last week in favor of the repeal, but Howard County Delegates were split on the issue.

Democrats Liz Bobo, Guy Guzzone, Frank Turner and Shane Pendergrass voted in favor of the repeal. Democrats James Malone and Steven DeBoy voted against the repeal along with Republicans Gail Bates and Warren Miller.

Overall, two Republicans joined 80 Democrats voting for the repeal and 18 Democrats joined 38 Republicans voting against the repeal. Three Republican Delegates were absent from the vote.

The Senate passed a repeal of the death penalty 27-20 on March 6.

Bobo, who joined Guzzone, Turner and Pendergrass in co-sponsoring the House version of the bill, said the vote was a "very big move for justice."

She said she has never been able to understand how killing discourages killing.

"That's just counterintuitive to me," she said.

Pendergrass said she was "very concerned" that the death penalty could lead to sentencing an innocent person to death.

But what caused her to go from a death penalty supporter to opposing capital punishment was the fact that it is more expensive than keeping someone in prison for life.

"When you put those two things together, there's the humanity and then there is also the fiscal issue," Pendergrass said.

Delegates against the repeal said they believed some crimes warrant the death penalty.

Malone said he voted against the repeal to protect correctional and police officers.

"The death penalty was a tool that we could still use to deter people, especially in the prison systems," he said.

Maryland's last execution occurred in 2005. The state requires DNA evidence, a video confession or video evidence linking a person to the crime for the death penalty.

Bates believes the death penalty should be in place for certain crimes, such as killing a correctional officer.

"What further penalty can you give them if they kill someone in prison?" she said.

DeBoy said he voted against the repeal based upon his 20-year career in law enforcement. He estimated that he has attended 25 funerals for police officers and half of them were murdered.

"I do know there are those situations that occur in our society that I believe you need it on the books just in case," DeBoy said.

He referenced the Newtown, Conn., school shooting and D.C. sniper case as examples.

Miller said he has an issue with a criminal killing a prison guard and not facing a stiffer penalty than life without parole.

"The whole thing is disturbing to me," he said.

Voters could petition the decision to send it to referendum in 2014, but there doesn't appear to be any movement in that direction

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