John Brady, who spent eight years on Maryland's death row and once got a stay of execution only hours before he was scheduled to die in the electric chair, decided at the last minute today not to testify at a legislative hearing on capital punishment.

He saw the television cameras and didn't like the idea of being the star on the evening news broadcasts, and "besides, it wouldn't do any good to testify," he said. "The ones for capital punishment aren't going to be a death penalty in Maryland."

So the Maryland House of Delegates Judiciary Committee, which heard a Roman Catholic auxiliary bushop denounce capital punishemnt on grounds there is no justice "murdering a murderer," didn't get the chance to hear Brady's views, which are somewhat different.

The threat of execution, Brady told a reported, "absolutely" does not dete a criminal, while mandatory life imprisonment without the chance of parole would. Under Maryland law, parole is possible for those given life sentences.

"Anyone in prison knows that burning one guy doesn't stop another because no one thinks that they would be the guy to get caught," he said.

Brady was convicted of murder and robbery in 1958 and sentenced to death. For eight years while he lived on death row, he said, he discovered that serving a life sentence with no chance of parole would be "hell."

"If I'd have thought that no matter what I did to redirect my life, that I'd still be in prison," he said, "then I'd have been like Gary Gilmore," who made suicide attempts and resisted all efforts to thwart his execution by firing squad in Utah last month.

After then Gov. J. Millard Tawes stayed Brady's execution because of discovery of a piece of evidence, Brady won the right to be resentenced. In 1970 he was sentenced to life in prison, and four years later he was paroled. He said the evidence that got him off death row was a statement a codefendant made to police allegedly claiming responsibility for the slaying of which Brady was convicted.

Brady said he now earns his living somewhere in Maryland - he will not say where - driving his own tractor. Next month his wife will give birth to their second child, he said, and there will be many friends around to celebrate the event. "Too many friends and people have confidence in me now," he said, "I don't need my picture on television."

With the death penalty, Brady said, prisoners always feel there is one more avenue of appeal. People outside prison are cautious about death, he argued, they are more afraid of killing the wrong man than of sending him to "the agony of confinement."

"If they really wanted a dealth penalty, they'd take the guy out of the court room and put him straight in the gas chamber," he declared. "Otherwise, death means a better chance to be set loose than a life sentence, every guy in prison knows that."

"In the past, executions didn't work, did they? . . . England used to hang pickpockets, and it didn't stop pick-pocketing," Brady said. "They've got a good enough law with the life sentence. No one gets out before 11 years and few then. And I've never heard of anyone out like me, after parole, who went out and committed a capital crime. They'd be fools."

In his testimony before the Judiciary Committee, the most Rev. J. Francis Stafford, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, quoted a famous atheist in his denunciation of the death penalty.

"George Bernard Shaw states it succinctly: "murder and capital punishment are not opposites that cancel out one another, but similars that breed their kind."

Bishop Stafford told the delegates that arguments quoting statistics of rising crime "become wearisome to see how it can be used to justify positions rooted in differing philosophical, political, and social values."

Of the 22 delegates sitting on the committee, only five said they agreed with the bishop and the other witnesses who testified against reinstituting the death penalty.

When Attorney General Francis B. Burch testified for Gov. Marvin Mandel's death penalty bill, which would create a law that would pass the new Supreme Court guidelines, most of the delegate's questions centered on the law, not the issue of whether or not capital punishment should be reinstated.

"I was sitting there and I thought there was nothing I could do, their minds were made up," said Brady, who sat through the hearing in a back row.