Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley announced Wednesday that he would commute the sentences of the state’s four remaining death row prisoners, reverting their convictions to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The outgoing Democratic governor, who has been named as a potential president candidate in 2016, said executing Vernon Evans, Anthony Grandison, Heath Burch and Jody Lee Miles would “not serve the public good of the people of Maryland.”
The state’s General Assembly abolished the death penalty in 2013—but did not apply that ruling to those already scheduled to be executed. That left four people on death row. However, state Attorney General Doug Gansler said in November that Maryland has no authority to put them to death, as there are no capital punishment statutes in place.
On Wednesday, O’Malley reiterated that stance, but went further as he addressed the moral implications of the issue. “In a representative government, state executions make every citizen a party to a legalized killing as punishment,” he said.
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