Maryland's House of Delegates voted 82-56 to repeal the death penalty Friday afternoon, all but guaranteeing the state's status as the 18th to abolish executions.
The bill now goes before Governor Martin O'Malley, who introduced the legislation in January and has pledged to sign it into law.
"Today's historic vote is a long time coming," said Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) during Friday's debate.
“Human beings cannot devise a system of justice that is perfect,” added Del. Anne Healey (D-Prince George’s). “We are all flawed. ...What I can’t live with is, if we make a mistake, it costs somebody else his life.”
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The news was celebrated by civil rights groups, including the NAACP, who long-campaigned against the discriminatory practice.
“Today we accomplished a milestone that the Maryland NAACP has worked toward for more than a century,” said NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous in a statement. "Tomorrow we will wake up in a state where we will never again have to worry if someone is put to death because of their color, class or in spite of their innocence.”
According to the Washington Post, the bill will replace death sentences with life terms in prison without the possibility of parole.
However, it does not directly apply to the five Maryland inmates currently on death row. Their fate is left to the governor who will determine whether to commute their sentences.