Ed Pilkington in New York
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 15 January 2013 22.30 GMT
The governor of Maryland, Martin O'Malley, has announced that he will seek to repeal the death penalty, in a move that would make his state the sixth in as many years to discard the ultimate punishment.
At the start of his final term as governor, that ends in 2016, O'Malley said he would use the full weight of his office to see the abrogation of capital punishment in Maryland. "The death penalty does not work in terms of preventing violent crime," he said.
This is the second time that O'Malley has attempted to repeal capital punishment in his state. In 2009 the effort was foiled when an abolition bill got stuck in committee, though this time supporters of repeal say they will force a full referendum should legislators attempt to block the reform again.
Maryland is a relatively small state with fewer than 6 million people, but how it handles the death penalty debate in the coming weeks will be closely watched, given its proximity to Washington and to the south, where most executions are now carried out. Should abolition be achieved this year, Maryland would become the sixth state in six years to throw out capital punishment, joining Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York.