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    1. #1
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010

      Iowa Capital Punishment News

      Bill seeks to reinstate death penalty in Iowa

      February 7, 2012, 5:35 pm
      By Rod Boshart/SourceMedia Group News

      DES MOINES – The leader of the Senate Republican minority is pushing to reinstate a limited death penalty in Iowa for any adult who kills a minor in the commission of a rape or kidnapping, but majority Democrats say it’s a political ploy to interject a distracting social issue during a session focused on job creation and reforming the state’s property tax, education and mental-health systems.
      Senate GOP Leader Jerry Behn of Boone said he introduced the death-penalty measure this session as he has done in previous years as a way to deter perpetrators of class A felonies in Iowa from killing their minor victims who may later identify them or testify against them if they are arrested by law officers and prosecuted for crimes that currently carry maximum penalties of life in prison without parole.
      “In essence, it is an incentive in Iowa right now to murder your victim so there are no witnesses,” Behn said. “This adds a level to that to provide a disincentive.”
      Senate File 2095 would establish effective Jan. 1, 2013, a two-tiered judicial process for criminals — charged with kidnapping and/or raping a victim under the age of 18 and then killing the minor — who are later convicted of at least two Class A offenses currently punishable by life prison terms. A separate court proceeding would be held to determine whether the perpetrator would be executed using lethal injection.
      The bill provides for an automatic review of any death-penalty sentence by the Iowa Supreme Court. To be eligible for capital punishment, a convicted defendant would have to be at least 18 years of age at the time the offenses were committed, must not be mentally ill or mentally retarded, and would have to “have been a major participant in the commission of the crime or must have shown a manifest indifference to human life,” according to the proposed legislation.
      Sen. Eugene Fraise, D-Fort Madison, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday he already has decided S.F. 2095 will not be considered in committee this session.
      “We won’t take it up,” he said. “This issue’s been around for a long time. It’s been turned down.”
      Fraise noted that Republicans controlled both chambers of the General Assembly during Branstad’s fourth term and did not debate the capital punishment issue.
      “It seems to me like it’s a political gimmick (for Republicans) to say they (Democrats) wouldn’t bring up the death penalty,” he said. “They’ve had their chances over the years to do it, but I won’t support it. We’ve always said that we sentence people to death in the institutions. They spend the rest of their life there until they die there. To me, it’s a far harsher sentence than just the death penalty. They have to think about what they did forever, so that to me is a far harsher penalty than the death penalty.”
      Branstad said he supports a limited death penalty in circumstances involving multiple Class A felonies as a deterrent for someone already facing a life prison sentence “from killing more people, figuring that improves their chance of getting away with it or killing the rape or kidnap victim.”
      The governor, a Boone Republican currently in the second year of his fifth, four-year term, said he chose not to include a death-penalty proposal in his 2012 legislative package because “I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere in the Senate. I want to focus on things that we can get done.”
      Capital punishment ended in Iowa in February 1965. The last person put to death under Iowa’s former capital-punishment statute was Victor Feguer, who was executed in March 1963 for killing a Dubuque doctor.


    2. #2
      Moh's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      Quote Originally Posted by Heidi View Post
      The last person put to death under Iowa’s former capital-punishment statute was Victor Feguer, who was executed in March 1963 for killing a Dubuque doctor.

      The last person put to death under Iowa's former capital punishment statute was Charles A. Kelly on September 6, 1962.

      Victor Feguer was executed under federal law.


    3. #3
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      Girls' deaths lead to talk of reviving death penalty in Iowa

      In the wake of the discovery of the bodies of two Iowa girls who had been missing for nearly five months, talk of reinstating the death penalty in Iowa has bubbled back up.

      One GOP state senator says he intends to introduce a death penalty bill, but it’s not likely that there is enough support in the Iowa Legislature for it to pass this coming session.

      “Even if it came up, it wouldn’t pass,” predicted Sen. Gene Fraise, D-Fort Madison, chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Iowa Senate. “Not only Democrats but Republicans have pretty much agreed if we send someone to prison for life, they are sentenced to death in an institution.”

      Iowa repealed capital punishment in 1965, three years after the last execution in Iowa.

      Elizabeth Collins, then 8, and her cousin Lyric Cook-Morrissey, then 10, disappeared from Evansdale on July 13. Hunters found two bodies in a Bremer County park this week, and law enforcement said Thursday they are confident the bodies are Lyric and Elizabeth.

      Noreen Gosch, whose 12-year-old son, Johnny, disappeared in 1982, said this week she will renew her push in the 2013 legislative session for the death penalty in cases like this.

      State Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Milo, intends to introduce a bill this session to allow the death penalty in part because the deaths of Elizabeth and Lyric have raised awareness, he said.

      “I’m not sure all Republicans would be for it,” Sorenson said.

      Sorenson feels strongly that if the Evansdale girls’ kidnapper knew he or she would face death if caught and convicted, the girls might not have been killed.

      Iowa law allows life sentences for convictions of murder and the most serious cases of sexual assault and kidnapping.

      Someone who kidnaps or rapes “at that point has nothing else to lose,” Sorenson said. “They’re going to face life in prison so they have no reason at that point to let (the victim) live.”

      In the 1990s, legislators attempted but failed in efforts to reinstate the death penalty under limited circumstances supported by then-Gov. Terry Branstad.

      Democrats currently control one chamber, and the leader in the Iowa Senate, Mike Gronstal, has opposed the death penalty in the past. In 1995, a Des Moines Register Iowa Poll showed 67 percent of Iowans wanted to revive the death penalty. But Gronstal blocked it on the grounds that it would be morally wrong and too costly to the legal system.

      The Register last polled on the issue in 2006. Then, 66 percent of Iowa adults favored reviving the death penalty for certain crimes, and 29 percent opposed it.

      No death penalty bill has been debated in the Iowa Senate since the 1990s.

      Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack, who served from 1999 to 2007, opposed the death penalty. Democratic Gov. Chet Culver, who served from 2007 to 2011, supported reinstating the death penalty in limited circumstances, but no bill reached his desk.

      Branstad returned to office last year after a 12-year absence. Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht said Friday: “The governor’s position on the death penalty remains the same, which is in limited circumstances, yes.”

      The Iowa County Attorneys Association has no position on the death penalty because it hasn’t been a viable issue in Iowa, president John Werden said Friday.

      But Werden said, “Everyone needs to step back and look at the financial impact it would have on our criminal justice system.”

      A uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    4. #4
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      Bill to restore death penalty in Iowa faces uncertain fate

      Iowa would become the first state to reinstate the death penalty since New York in 1995 if legislation filed last week becomes law.

      The abduction and slaying of 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins and her 10-year-old cousin Lyric Cook-Morrissey this summer in Evansdale gave capital punishment advocates the resolve to try, once again, to reintroduce it to Iowa where it was abolished in 1965.

      Elizabeth's parents, Heather and Drew Collins, joined with conservative state Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Milo, and the parents of other missing and murdered children at a pair of Statehouse news conferences announcing their intention to push for its reinstatement.

      They also met with Gov. Terry Branstad, who indicated he would sign a bill that brought the death penalty back in limited circumstances.

      But enthusiasm in both the House and the Senate seems muted at best. The majority Senate Democrats said there's no interest in the bill, and it won't make it to the floor for a vote. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, indicated it's not a top priority for the House if the Senate is not going to act.

      "Discussion on the death penalty is taking place in the Senate. If they send a bill over, we're obviously going to take a look it," he said.

      A trend

      In 2007, New York abolished the death penalty again. Four other states --- Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey and Connecticut --- have since.

      In all, 17 states have abolished the death penalty, and 33 have it, although it is used with varying degrees of frequency.

      Kansas, for example, last executed an inmate in 1965, while the most recent execution in Texas occurred on Nov. 15, 2012. A woman, Kimberly McCarthy, was scheduled to die in Texas last week, but her execution was stayed until April.

      A Pew Research poll released last year showed that 62 percent of Americans support the death penalty. That's less than the 78 percent who supported it in the mid-1990s, but much higher than the mid-1960s when less than 50 percent of Americans supported capital punishment, according to Pew.

      Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said there are at least a dozen bills to reintroduce the death penalty in statehouses across the country, but he's skeptical any will be successful. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit doesn't advocate for or against capital punishment and tracks state-by-state data.

      "The trend in recent years has been toward abolishing the death penalty," Dieter said. "The states that have abolished it do usually put in strict alternatives, like life without the possibility of parole. New York didn't have life without parole until they abolished (the death penalty)."

      Greg Heartsill, a Republican from Melcher-Dallas, said he will push a bill in the Iowa House to reinstate the death penalty.

      "I don't care about the trends. I'm not trendy," he said. "This is not just a matter of justice for the victims' families, it's about putting another tool in the toolbox of law enforcement, because the death penalty has been used as a huge bargaining chip."


      Sorenson's bill would allow a death sentence in cases in which someone commits a murder and either first-degree kidnapping or first-degree sexual abuse, or both, against the same victim who is a minor.

      He said he's keying on state Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, who is from the area where the cousins were abducted and killed as a potential ally to get traction in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

      Danielson said he has spoken to Sorenson about a bill that would set up a system notifying hunters when children go missing, but he's not interested in a capital punishment bill.

      "My position is pretty clear: I'm morally opposed to capital punishment," he said "We have the death penalty in Iowa. It is if you commit a heinous crime, you go to jail and die there."

      Meanwhile, the families of the victims say they're starting a grassroots effort to apply pressure to lawmakers.

      Drew Collins said the families who are connected through the tragedy launched a Facebook group last week called "Enough is Enough" that supports reintroduction of the death penalty in Iowa. The Collinses' own web page, where they once posted reward amounts for information that led to the safe return of their daughter and niece, soon will host petitions to reintroduce the death penalty to Iowa. That web page can be found here at www.picbadges.com/badge/2652852/#.

      "When we abolished the death penalty in 1965, there might have been more reason to believe there might be false convictions," Drew Collins said. "But now we have the technology to eliminate that. We have a 1965 law in 2013. It's time to change."

      A uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

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