Lethal injection draft regulations released
O'Malley to review five capital cases, spokesman says
Maryland's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services took a long-awaited step this week by issuing draft regulations for administering the death penalty by lethal injection.
The regulations are subject to public comment and the General Assembly's Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review.
"These new regulations mark an important step in ensuring that the death penalty in Maryland is carried out in a manner consistent with state and federal law," Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said in a statement Wednesday. "While I personally oppose the death penalty, I took an oath to uphold the laws of our state."
Republicans have criticized O'Malley for delays in releasing the regulations, saying he was shirking his oath of office to execute the duties of governor.
"He's only two-and-a-half years short of when they should've been [issued]," said House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell (R-Dist. 29C) of Lusby. "But we'll take 'em. I'm glad he followed our lead."
O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec defended the timing of the release.
"It isn't something the governor takes lightly," Adamec said. "Proper procedures were followed. It was given its due diligence, and now we have these standards."
Changes to the regulations include clarification of a prohibition on Division of Corrections employees performing the "cut-down" procedure, which involves cutting into veins to administer the lethal cocktail of drugs. Also, requirements were reinforced for the pre-execution exam to determine a proper vein in which to insert IVs.
Inmates are allowed to have visitors up to three hours before the execution — previously it was four hours — and to request a last meal, at the discretion of the commissioner of corrections. Also, inmates are allowed to choose only one attorney to witness the execution.
Another change requires that a certified paramedic be on duty, either as a member of the execution team or as a contracted paramedic stationed immediately outside the execution area. And another requires proper credentials for execution team members who are not corrections division employees.
Maryland has had a de facto moratorium on executions since a December 2006 ruling by the Court of Appeals that the state's lethal injection protocol was not properly promulgated.
Maryland currently has five men on death row.
Issuance of the regulations does not mean that Maryland is preparing to resume executions, Adamec said.
"The governor will review those cases as it's procedurally appropriate," Adamec said.
Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, said the regulations, posted on the DPSCS Web site, shed light on a lethal injection process that "has been pretty secretive."
"It's my understanding that we've never had the whole protocol out there in the public domain for it to be reviewed," Henderson said. "That, I think, is a good development."
Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger (D) said the draft regulations put Maryland "one step closer to executing some of the five individuals currently on death row."