Bill introduced to repeal death penalty in Delaware

Bill introduced to repeal death penalty in Delaware

March 12, 2013
Some state lawmakers, religious leaders and citizens took to the Senate floor Tuesday, calling for the repeal of Delaware’s death penalty.

Senator Karen Peterson (D-Stanton) is spearheading the initiative, along with Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson (R-Milford) and Representatives Darryl Scott (D-Dover) and Joe Miro (R-Pike Creek Valley). They introduced their bill Tuesday afternoon.

The bill would not only abolishes the death penalty, but it would also modify existing death row sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole. There are 17 men on Delaware’s death row.

Currently, only the governor and the courts have the power to change sentences, but Peterson disagrees.

“If people believe that we don’t have the right to do that then that will be a matter taken before the courts if we get the bill passed. But I’m being told that the research indicates that it is constitutional,” said Peterson.

Governor Jack Markell says he hasn’t decided whether he would approve the bill, if it passes.

Markell served on the Board of Pardons for ten years and last year commuted the death sentence of Robert Gattis to life in prison.
But he suggests this will be a different decision that those he faced in the past regarding capital punishment.

“This is stepping back and asking what is the appropriate public policy decision. It’s not exactly the same as what I did before and so I’ve got some more thought, some more consideration to make about it, then to make the final decision,” said Markell.

Bishop Aretha Morton of Wilmington joined other religious leaders in supporting the bill. She says Delaware needs to be a leader in the nation on this issue.

“If we have anything to think about, let us be aware that we need not be the last state to repeal, but we need to be among the first,” said Morton.
If the bill passes, Delaware would be the 18th state in the nation, along with the District of Columbia, to repeal the death penalty.

Neighboring New Jersey is among those, and the Maryland state senate recently passed similar legislation.

Rep. Melanie George-Smith (D-Bear/Newark) called for a moratorium on executions in 2005 so the death penalty could be further studied, but it failed to get out of committee.

Peterson says this bill will move forward quickly, with a committee.

By James Dawson



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