On March 15, the Maryland House of Delegates decisively passed (82-56) a bill that would replace the death penalty with life without parole, clearing the way for Maryland to become the sixth state in six years to abandon capital punishment. The measure will now go to the governor, who has pledged to sign it. Maryland becomes the 18th state to abolish the death penalty, and the sixth in six years--and the first state below the Mason-Dixon line to end its capital punishment program. Among the groups credited with turning the tide this year were the NAACP and the Catholic Church. The NAACP, led by president Ben Jealous, made Maryland repeal a national priority, [according to the Baltimore Sun. ](http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-ms-death-repeal-vo...) "Final vote in the MD House: 82-56. Today we accomplished a milestone that the Maryland NAACP has worked toward for more than a century," [Jealous tweeted shortly after the vote. ](https://twitter.com/BenJealous)"Today we finish the mission advanced by Juanita Mitchell and Thurgood Marshall: abolishing the death penalty in MD," he went on to say. Five states - Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, and New Jersey - have repealed the death penalty since 2007, according to the [Death Penalty Information Center](http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/). A total of 17 U.S. states have put an end to state-sanctioned executions.