The House Judiciary Committee has rejected a bill that would abolish the death penalty in Maryland, turning down a plea for a floor vote on the controversial issue.
Saying constituents should know how their elected officials stand on the death penalty, Del. David B. Shapiro (D-Baltimore) urged the committee to give the bill a favorable report so that House members could "vote their conscience" on the issue.
Members of the Maryland Coalition to Abolish State Executions, representing religious and civil rights groups, called the 13-to-8 vote disappointing, but expressed hope that the law would be eventually repealed.
Supporters of the legislation have argued that the death sentence is expensive, discriminates against minorities and has not deterred violent crime.
Eleven of the state's 17 death row inmates were sentenced in Baltimore County.
Of those delegates on the committee from Montgomery and Prince George's counties, only one, Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George's) voted in favor of retaining the death penalty.
Those voting to abolish the death penalty were Del. Rosa Lee Blumenthal (D-Prince George's), Del. Joel Chasnoff (D-Montgomery), Del. Gilbert J. Genn (D-Montgomery) and Del. Pauline H. Menes (D-Prince George's).
Del. Richard A. Palumbo (D-Prince George's) was absent.