Astle, Young voice support for repealing Maryland’s death penalty


The execution table inside the Metropolitan Transition Center in Baltimore as seen in 2004. (Steve Ruark/AP)
February 5, 2013

Two more Maryland senators have said they will support a bill to abolish capital punishment, giving the measure backed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) more than enough expected votes to clear the chamber.

Sen. John C. Astle (D-Anne Arundel) said in an interview with The Post on Monday that he plans to vote in favor of repealing Maryland’s death penalty. And Sen. Ronald N. Young (D-Frederick) also plans to vote for repeal, The Baltimore Sun reported Monday.

Repeal advocates say they are confident the measure will pass in the House of Delegates if the votes are there in the Senate, where similar legislation has stalled in recent years, with members arguing capital punishment should remain an option for some killers.

Twenty four votes are needed to pass a bill in the Senate. O’Malley’s repeal bill has 21 co-sponsors, meaning three additional votes are needed to reach a majority in the heavily Democratic chamber.

Besides Astle and Young, two other senators — James E. DeGrange Sr. (D-Anne Arundel) and Edward R. Reilly (R-Anne Arundel) — have said in interviews with The Post that they plan to join the co-sponsors in voting for the legislation. Several other members have said they are keeping open minds.

Astle said that at one time he supported capital punishment for “the most heinous crimes,” but that he became conflicted about the issue more recently.

“The idea of strapping someone down and deliberately taking their life, it was a little difficult for me,” said Astle, a twice-wounded military combat veteran. “I didn’t come to my decision easily.”

In recent years, repeal bills have remained bottled up in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. But this year’s legislation was given a boost when Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said he would allow it be debated in the full chamber if O’Malley could show he has the votes to pass it there.

Supporters are contemplating several possible procedural moves to advance the bill to the floor sometime after a scheduled Feb. 14 committee hearing.

Astle, who is planning to run for re-election next year, said he wasn’t sure how his stance on capital punishment would affect his prospects.

“I’m going to be 70 years old in two months,” he said. “If I can’t say what I believe and vote the way I believe, then what good am I?”

Here is a list of the 25 senators now on record supporting O’Malley’s repeal bill.

Co-sponsors of the bill (21)

Joanne C. Benson (D-Prince George’s)

Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore)

Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s)

Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore)

Jennie M. Forehand (D-Montgomery)

Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery)

Lisa A. Gladden(D-Baltimore)

Verna Jones-Rodwell (D-Baltimore)

Delores G. Kelley (D-Baltimore County)

Nancy J. King, Nancy J. (D-Montgomery)

Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery)

Roger P. Manno (D-Montgomery)

Nathaniel J. McFadden (D-Baltimore)

Karen S. Montgomery (D-Montgomery)

C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s)

Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Prince George’s)

Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s)

Catherine E. Pugh (D-Baltimore)

Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George’s)

Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery)

Jim Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s)

Others who have said they intend to vote for the bill (4)

John C. Astle (D-Anne Arundel)

James E. DeGrange Sr. (D-Anne Arundel)

Edward R. Reilly (R-Anne Arundel)

Ronald N. Young (D-Frederick)

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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