|Thursday, March 24, 2011 – Robert Lang|
|The Maryland Senate has approved a bill that would allow an inmate serving a life sentence to go free, if the governor doesn’t act on the inmate’s parole request within 180 days of receiving it. The vote was 32-15.
The bill would apply only to inmates who have served at least 25 years of a life sentence, and who the state parole commission recommends be released.
Supporters say the legislation only applies to six inmates who were sentenced mostly in the 1970’s before Maryland established the sentence of life without parole.
Governor Martin O’Malley has received a total of 43 requests for parole or commutations. Not all of them are for inmates who have been sentenced to life in prison.
Last week, O’Malley rejected the commutation requests of seven men who were seeking parole. Six of them had been convicted of murder and one had been convicted of rape.
These were the first decisions on parole made by the O’Malley. He has not approved any parole request.
The sponsor of the bill, Democrat Lisa Gladden of Baltimore City criticized O’Malley for not acting on the parole requests for fear it might hurt him politically in a future campaign.
‘When I looked at the statistics about parole, commutations, and all of the issues involving the governor, it was clear to me that this governor was putting politics where it does not belong,” Gladden said.
Gladden is a public defender, and vice chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Gladden pointed out that Republican Bob Ehrlich approved six parole requests when he was governor, and noted that Ehrlich handled these cases in a fairer manner.
There has been no immediate comment from the governor’s office. Last week, a spokesman said the governor would have no comment on his decision to deny freedom for the seven inmates.
Baltimore County Democratic Senator Bobby Zirkin defended the governor’s handling of these cases, noting he has a policy for reviewing them.
This bill now goes to the House of Delegates, which has already approved a similar bill setting a 90-day deadline for the governor to act on the parole request.
… Obviously, Gladden puts lack of common-sense ahead of public safety. …