The hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Wednesday illustrated the divided nature of the debate.
Gov. Martin O'Malley argued for a repeal, saying it fails to deter crime and takes money away from crime-fighting efforts that work. The governor asked the committee to send the bill to the Senate floor for "a fair up-or-down" vote.
The bill has stalled in the committee for two years.
One of O'Malley's predecessors, former Gov. Marvin Mandel, testified in favor of keeping the law on the books.
He told the committee he saw firsthand how the threat of a death sentence can be a deterrent.