Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has commuted the death sentences for his state’s four remaining death row inmates.
In a statement released Wednesday morning, O’Malley said he hoped that the commutations might bring “a greater degree of closure” for the survivors and their families.
The four inmates will now serve life sentences without the possibility of parole rather than face execution.
The Maryland legislature passed a bill in 2013 that eliminated the death penalty in the state, but it did not commute the sentences for those already convicted on death row.
There are currently 18 states without the death penalty, with Maryland among a recent crop of six states that have banned it since 2007 that includes New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Illinois and Connecticut.
There is a political angle as well. O’Malley is a likely 2016 Democratic presidential contender. He is being replaced by a Republican governor next term after his lieutenant governor was defeated for the position in November.