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Governor of Maryland slow to clear death row

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, an outspoken death penalty opponent considering a 2016 presidential run, has yet to commute the sentences of the state’s five death row inmates despite his role in pushing through a repeal of capital punishment that takes effect next month.

The Democrat tried for years to persuade the Legislature to approve the repeal but struggled to rally votes in the divided Senate, where the chamber’s president is a death penalty supporter.

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Now that it’s passed, O’Malley — who signed the measure in May — has said only that he would consider commuting the five inmates’ sentences to life in prison on a case-by-case basis once a request is made. So far, none of the death row inmates has made one.

O’Malley can commute sentences without a formal request, though he may not need to take the political risk of clearing death row — especially because the state currently does not have procedures in place to carry out an execution.

Formerly the mayor of Baltimore — a city that struggled for years with a homicide rate among the highest in the nation — O’Malley has long taken a tough-on-crime stance and has been hesitant to reduce criminals’ sentences since becoming governor.

‘‘I can’t say I enjoy this part of the job, but it is part of the job,’’ O’Malley said last year after commuting sentences in two cases.

One was the sentence of a then-14-year-old boy involved in a fatal robbery, and the other, of a woman convicted of felony murder in 1984. She drove a man she met in a bar to the scene of a robbery, where her boyfriend shot the man to death.

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