Death penalty repeal backers suspend their legislative efforts

 

DOVER — Delaware lawmakers supporting the repeal of the state’s death penalty said Monday they will not pursue legislation to ban capital punishment.

A bill to scrap the state’s death penalty failed in the House in January after passing the Senate last year. However, supporters had until March 15 to recall the vote if they could gain three more votes, which would have given them a majority.

Now, they will wait while the state Supreme Court reviews the legality of Delaware’s death penalty statute.

The law allows a judge to overrule a jury and sentence death. The U.S. Supreme Court in January found a similar provision in Florida violates the U.S. Constitution.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has put the legitimacy of Delaware’s death penalty statute into question with its decision in Hurst v. Florida and Superior Court President Judge Jan Jurden has issued a temporary stay of all capital murder trials and executions,” Sen. Karen Peterson, D-Stanton, said in a statement. “It only makes sense for the General Assembly to wait for the Delaware high court to rule before we decide on further action.”

The state Supreme Court could issue a ruling based on filed briefs or it could schedule oral arguments at some point.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware recently submitted information arguing for the end of capital punishment.

Thirteen convicted murderers are currently on death row.

Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover, said last week several lawmakers were “on the fence” about switching over to supporting repeal.

“While I wish we had been able to pass this legislation in the House, I’m optimistic the court’s scrutiny of our capital punishment law has put Delaware on the path to repeal,” Rep. Kim Williams, D-Newport, said in a statement.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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