This state legislative session has seen a flurry of activity regarding capital punishment. There has been plenty of reason for hope, but also some disappointment for death penalty opponents.
We’ll start with the bad news: Alaska has proposed to reinstate its death penalty, which it abolished in 1958. Anti-death penalty groups are rightly stating that the risks of an innocent person being sentenced to death are high, as is the cost for the capital punishment system.
In sillier pro-death penalty news, a New Hampshire legislator proposed to bring the firing squad back as a method of execution. The politician claims that this method of execution will deter murder.
Now for the good news! Maryland is poised to abolish its death penalty. The governor is a fervent opponent of the death penalty and has proposed the repeal bill. According to the Washington Post, it appears that legislators are also ready to move forward with abolition. A committee may forward the bill to the full senate without having a hearing, which gives it a better opportunity to pass.
New Mexico will once again have a bill that would abolish the death penalty. Capital punishment is a costly sentence and one which New Mexico rarely uses; four people have been exonerated from New Mexico’s death row, and only two people currently sit on the state’s death row. The bill would repeal the death penalty and sentence murderers to life without parole and keep the state just as safe.
There is also sensible bill in New Hampshire that would create a study commission to investigate whether capital punishment is worthwhile for the state to continue.
Nebraska has not had a functioning death penalty since the electric chair was ruled unconstitutional. Some legislators are proposing abolition of capital punishment. Nebraska came close to repeal in 2007, so abolition is not an unrealistic goal for the Cornhusker State. (The bad news is that other legislators are trying to pass lethal injection legislation.)
Colorado is also taking a hard look at capital punishment. An article in the Denver Post discusses a bill that would repeal the death penalty and use the money that is wasted on that process for investigations of cold cases.
The country seems to have atmosphere of hope, and the anti-death penalty movement is moving into that space as well.