Death penalty repeal may've not withstood vote w/o amendment

By Amy Cherry 4:24pm, March 27, 2013
We may never know whether the death penalty repeal bill would have cleared the state Senate if Senator Karen Peterson had not attached an amendment that removes retroactivity, not sparing the lives of Delaware's current death row inmates.

Republican state Senator Ernie Lopez voted in favor of abolishing capital punishment, but without that amendment, he might not have.

"For me, being the son of a public safety official, my father's a corrections officer, that was something that was important for me to see. I didn't feel comfortable having any sort of a commutation for those who had already been adjudicated under Delaware law as it stands," says Lopez (R-Lewes).

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Lopez says the decision didn't come easily.

"As someone, who does believe in the sanctity of human life from beginning to end regardless of whether they commit a heinous crime, that was a factor that came into my consideration as well, but it really wasn't the swing factor for me," says Lopez.

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Fellow Republican Sen. Greg Lavelle had a major problem with the retroactivity clause, but even after that was omitted, he still voted "no" to repealing the death penalty.

"15 years from now, there will be a group, undoubtedly, that will come and say, 'Isn't it cruel and unusual, isn't it horrific, that as as society that we put somebody in jail that committed a murder then they're 21, 22-years-old, an adult, and they're in there for 30, 40, 50 years, isn't that cruel and unusual, and shouldn't we allow them out?'" asks Lavelle.

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Lavelle also doesn't believe the death penalty is used that often by prosecutors in Delaware.

"I just think, it as an option, it should be used in rare occasions with good evidence against heinous criminals, and that's why I voted against the bill," says Lavelle.

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The measure passed by just one vote. It now heads to the House.

If it clears the House and gets Governor Markell's signature, Delaware would become the seventh state to ban capital punishment.

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