O’Malley administration withdraws lethal injection rules, effectively extending moratorium

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration announced Thursday that it is withdrawing regulations that are needed for executions to resume in Maryland, effectively extending a four-year moratorium on the death penalty.

The move was prompted by a U.S. company’s recent decision to halt distribution of a drug used in lethal injections in Maryland and many others states.

Proposed regulations issued by the O’Malley (D) administrationspecifically call for the use of the drug, sodium thiopental.

“Many states are now in the process of reviewing and revising their protocols in light of this development,” Corrections Secretary Gary D. Maynard wrote in a letter to leaders of a legislative committee that reviews regulations issued by the administration.

Maynard said the department would submit revised regulations but provided no timeframe in the letter.

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), co-chairman of the legislative review panel, said he expects a delay of at least six months.

There has been an effective moratorium on capital punishment in Maryland since December 2006, when the state’s highest court ruled that new regulations were needed.

For the first three years of his tenure, O’Malley, who also opposes capital punishment, unsuccessfully lobbied the legislature to abolish the death penalty rather than resume its use. More recently, O’Malley has encouraged the review panel to act on the proposed regulations.

Shortages of the drug made by Hospira of Lake Forest, Ill., have been an issue in some states that use it. And any supply still on hand in Maryland — which last executed a prisoner in 2005 — has since expired, according to a corrections department spokesperson.

There are five inmates on death row in Maryland.

John Wagner

 

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