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State of Maryland Moves Closer To Repealing Death Penalty

The U.S. state of Maryland has moved a step closer to abolishing the death penalty which, if successful, would make it the 18th U.S. state to ban capital punishment.

The Maryland House of Delegates passed the measure Friday, following Senate approval last week. The bill will now go to the state's governor, Martin O'Malley, who has pledged to sign it.

The bill would make life without parole the most severe sentence in the state.

Maryland's last execution was in 2005. Currently, the mid-Atlantic state has five men on death row.

While the new law would not apply to those already sentenced to death, it does allow Maryland's governor to commute their sentences to life without parole.

Opponents of capital punishment argue that it is expensive, prone to mistakes and racially biased. Supporters say it is necessary in the most egregious crimes to bring justice to victims and their families.

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Pope Francis in Turkey

Photogallery Pope Francis Urges End to Fundamentalism, Terror

Vatican officials say Francis will not shy from denouncing violence in God's name or voicing concern for Christians targeted by extremists More