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(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) — Maryland became the 18th state to abolish the death penalty on Thursday when Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the measure at a crowded ceremony.

The new law will not apply to the five people currently on death row, but the governor can commute those sentences to life without parole.

“Just as we have a responsibility to do more of the things that work to save lives we have a responsibility to stop doing the things that are wasteful and that are ineffective,” said O’Malley.

NAACP President Ben Jealous echoed O’Malley’s sentiments. “This profound waste of law enforcement dollars will be ended so that dollars can be focused on catching the killers who are still on the street,” he said.

The signing of the law was especially moving for Kirk Bloodsworth, who spent time on death row in Maryland before his conviction on rape and murder charges was overturned. Bloodsworth was the first American sentenced to death row exonerated by DNA evidence.

Bloodsworth’s story was one of the motivations for abolishing capital punishment.

“Man,” Bloodsworth said, “I killed the thing that almost killed me.”

Maryland is the sixth state to abolish the death penalty since 2007. The last execution in Maryland happened in 2005.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


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