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Its not the full repeal she had lobbied for, but Mary Ellen Russell hailed the House of Delegates for passing significant restrictions on the death penalty in Maryland. "Were really very pleased with the outcome of the vote," said Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, the lobbying arm of the states Catholic bishops. "This measure is a significant step forward in ensuring that innocent lives will not be taken through the death penalty and in ensuring that capital punishment will be narrowed in scope," she told The Catholic Review, newspaper of the Baltimore Archdiocese. The House of Delegates voted 87-52 to pass the measure March 26; the Senate had previously approved it by a 33-12 vote. Gov. Martin J. OMalley announced in a March 26 statement that he would sign the restrictions into law in the coming weeks. The new regulations will allow the death penalty in first-degree murder cases only when defendants are linked to the crime through DNA or biological evidence, videotaped evidence or a videotaped confession. It is considered one of the toughest sets of limitations on capital punishment in the nation.

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