Former New Castle County Police Chief Tom Gordon Says Death Penalty Doesn’t Increase Public Safety

Gordon, Former Prison Warden Terry Collins Testify in Favor of Repealing Delaware’s Death Penalty

Affiliate: ACLU of Delaware
May 13, 2015 5:00 pm

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WILMINGTON, DE – On Wednesday, May 13, former New Castle County police chief Tom Gordon and former prison warden Terry Collins were joined by local elected leaders, murder victims’ family members, faith leaders, and civil rights leaders as they testified in favor of a bipartisan bill to replace Delaware’s death penalty with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole (SB 40).

Gordon spent more than two decades in law enforcement in Delaware and is the current County Executive of New Castle County.

Quoting the retired Superior Court “Hanging Judge” Norman Barron, Gordon said, “ I believe the application of the death penalty is quirky and capricious. In other words, it is impossible to justify why some murderers receive the death penalty while others, whose crimes are arguably worse in degree or savagery, do not.”

Gordon was one of dozens of witnesses urging the Delaware House Judiciary Committee to release Senate Bill 40 so that the full House could debate and vote on the bill. The legislation, which has already passed in the Senate, would not impact the 15 prisoners who are currently on death row.

Among the more than 35 witnesses who registered to testify in favor of SB 40 were Kirk Bloodsworth, a retired U. S. Marine who served as a military policeman and later became the first person exonerated from death row using DNA technology, and Terry Collins, who retired as Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction after overseeing 33 executions in the final years of his more than 30 year career in corrections.

“The death penalty does not increase safety of prisons,” said Collins. “There is no relationship between safe prisons and the death penalty.”

In his statement, New Castle County Council President Chris Bullock pointed out that the death penalty does not increase the safety of law enforcement.

“I’ve looked at how the murder rates of police officers in the states that have ended the death penalty are either lower or remain the same,” said Bullock. “There has been no post-repeal spike in the murder rate. This is true in New York, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, and with our neighbors, New Jersey and Maryland. I’m convinced that executions won’t protect our police and they don’t provide the healing that murder victims families need.”

“In this time of budget shortfalls, I’d love to see Delaware stop wasting money trying to execute a few criminals, and instead divert the funds to programs which prevent crimes, treat addicts, help murder victims family members, or go towards our schools. New Castle County can always use more officers on the streets. The trend in the United States and worldwide is toward ending the death penalty. We can do better here in Delaware, and we should.”

The hearing began after a rally headlined by Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, co-founder of The Roots, a Philadelphia hip-hop group and the house band on Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show.

Today’s hearing also came on the heels of Governor Jack Markell announcement that he would sign the repeal bill if it came to his desk. He cited concerns of evidence tampering and false testimony given by FBI agents in hundreds of cases as one of the reasons he now supports replacing the death penalty with a sentence of life in prison without parole.

More than 10,000 Delaware citizens have contacted their House and Senate representatives to urge passage of Senate Bill 40. If the legislation passes, Delaware will become the 19th state without the death penalty, and the 7th to abandon it since 2007.

The Delaware Repeal Project is a coalition of 38 local, state, and national organizations working to repeal Delaware’s death penalty. To learn more visit

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