When the Maryland state legislature voted to abolish capital punishment in 2013, five men were on death row. One died of natural causes in April, and now the remaining four—all convicted of murder—have just had their sentences commuted to life without parole on the last day of 2014 by outgoing Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. Having spoken to some of the surviving families of the victims, he says that failing to do so would "needlessly and callously" subject them to an "endless" appeals process, reports the Baltimore Sun. The commutations will be official after a two-week comment period ending Jan. 19, just two days before O'Malley, who is a Democrat, leaves office.
His successor, Republican Larry Hogan, says he won't "second-guess what is the most difficult decision for this or any governor," adding, "I am sure [he] came to this decision after a great deal of consultation, prayer, and a thorough review of the facts." In 2006, Maryland's Court of Appeals voided the state's rules for imposing the death penalty, but it wasn't until 2013 that the state abolished capital punishment. Both New Mexico and Connecticut have left inmates on death row after repealing the death penalty in recent years, but none of the inmates have been executed or had their sentences changed. (Earlier this year, an inmate became the second man freed for being wrongfully tied to one Chicago murder case.)