Death penalty repeal hearing May 13

DOVER — The House hearing for the death penalty repeal bill has been set for May 13.

Senate Bill 40, which would abolish capital punishment, passed the Senate 11-9 earlier this month.

It also was passed by the Senate in 2013 before stalling in the House Judiciary Committee, where it sits again this year.

Of the 11 members on the committee, five are sponsors of Senate Bill 40.

Police and correctional officers are staunchly against repeal, while a number of activists and religious leaders have spoken out in favor of the bill.

Sean M. Lynn

Sean M. Lynn

Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover, the main sponsor on the House side, is pessimistic about the bill’s chances.

“In my heart, I don’t believe that it will be released from the committee,” he said.

Committee Chairman Rep. Larry Mitchell, D-Wilmington, has expressed his displeasure with repeal but pledged to give it a fair hearing. He’s a former police officer.

Speaker of the House Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, himself a retired state trooper, opposes the piece of legislation but has said he is staying out of the committee debate.

When the bill failed to garner the necessary votes to advance from the committee toward the end of session last year, backers began formulating a petition. Signatures from the majority of members would have led to the bill being released to the House floor. Efforts fell short, however.

The hearing scheduled for May 13 will take place at 11 a.m. in the House chamber and could last up to 2½ hours. A large number of public speakers are expected. Speakers will be expected to follow a strict set of procedures.

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