Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Delaware Senate approves death penalty repeal bill

Measure heads to House for consideration

Legislation to repeal the death penalty in Delaware passed the Senate this evening after a lengthy, impassioned debate over the merits of capital punishment.

The bill was moved to the House with the narrowest majority, 11 votes to 10. Five Democrats and five Republicans voted no on the legislation.

Debate began with an amendment to preserve the sentences of 17 men currently on death row in the state.

The legislation, sponsored by Newark Sen. Karen Peterson, eliminates the death penalty from Delaware’s criminal code, making life in prison without the possibility of probation or parole the maximum penalty for the crime of first-degree murder.

In its original form, the bill would have commuted the sentences of the state’s death-row inmates to life in prison, but Peterson attached an amendment to the bill shortly after bringing it to the Senate floor that removed all mention of current capital offenders.

The amendment passed with 18 votes in the Senate. Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover South, was recorded as absent and Sen. Harris McDowell III, D-Wilmington North, was recorded as not voting.

The bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday with two unfavorable votes and four endorsements for the measure to brought to the floor “on its merits” — a designation that expresses no specific support for the legislation.

Testimony began with pro-repeal witnesses before Republican lawmakers brought forth a line of speakers declaring support for the death penalty.

Delmarva native Kirk Bloodsworth, who was wrongly convicted of murder in Maryland and exonerated after being sentenced to death, testified insupport of the legislation

“Sometimes peope make mistakes, sometimes people lie, sometimes we think we know more than we do,” he said. “Delaware can’t afford to be wrong. We can’t afford what it does to victims families. We can’t afford the racial biases and we can’t afford, most of all, executing an innocent man.”

Source: Delaware Online, March 26, 2013