Diligently and Faithfully…

The oath of office is pretty simple.

I, Martin J. O’Malley, do swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States; and that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the State of Maryland, and support the Constitution and Laws thereof; and that I will, to the best of my skill and judgment, diligently and faithfully, without partiality or prejudice, execute the office of Governor, according to the Constitution and Laws of this State, and that I will not directly or indirectly, receive the profits or any part of the profits of any other office during the term of my acting as Governor.

Is Governor O’Malley upholding that oath? Not in regards to the death penalty in Maryland.

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The issue here is pretty simple. There are no questions of morality or guilt or innocence. Maryland has a death penalty. A loose-cannon judge has determined there are flaws in the execution protocol that may, may, cause pain as the condemned checks out. Color me unimpressed. The idea that “cruel and unusual” can be stretched to include “painless” or apparently “non threatening” just strikes me a dipstickery of the worst sort.

Be that as it may, the ball is in Governor O’Malley’s court. A new protocol has been drafted and it is up to him to approve it or disapprove it. Pretty easy.

Gov. Martin O’Malley said yesterday that his administration is not likely to issue regulations allowing executions to resume in Maryland until after the General Assembly reconvenes next year and has another opportunity to repeal the death penalty.

“That’s what I’m inclined to do right now,” O’Malley (D) told reporters, saying he sensed “a lot of fluidity in the debate.”

There are lots of reasons to oppose the death penalty just as there are lots of reasons to support it. Those arguments and the fact that abolition of the death penalty might be an issue in the new legislative session do not constitute grounds for the governor refusing to act.

Promulgating the regulations fulfills his duty. If he is opposed to the death penalty the Maryland Constitution gives him the power to reprieve each and every prisoner under sentence of death in the state. All nine of them.

He hasn’t done so because commuting their sentence would require him to accept some political consequences for acting. He’s also smart enough to know that a bill abolishing the death penalty is not going to come to his desk in the forseeable future.

O’Malley said King is more likely to support the repeal of the death penalty than Hogan. King confirmed yesterday that she is inclined to support a repeal, saying: “I think there have been so many questions about whether people are guilty or not that I don’t want to take that chance.”

But King’s vote would be relevant only if a repeal bill reaches the Senate floor.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, said that he doesn’t believe the votes have changed on his panel.

“I hope that somebody will change his or her mind, but I know the people of Judicial Proceedings pretty well, and I think they’re all pretty fixed in their views,” said Frosh, who opposes capital punishment.

So a tame and supine legislature is going to stand idly by while Governor O’Malley makes a conscious decision to not enforce the laws of the state? The answer, it seems, would be yes.

Frosh said he would have no problem if O’Malley declines to issue regulations for the remainder of his four-year term.

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