State lawmakers continue re-evaluating the death penalty

Photo of the New Hampshire State Capitol

We’re less than a quarter into 2018, and the movement to end the death penalty has already made major strides in state capitols around the country.

In Utah, a Republican-sponsored repeal bill passed out of a House committee for the first time ever. Two years ago, Utah came close to ending the death penalty but ran out of time before getting to the House. This year, Utah’s session was extra short, but with strong backing from conservative lawmakers and civic leaders, the state is primed and ready to take repeal the rest of the way in 2019.

Washington’s death penalty also appears to be on its last legs. The Senate voted ‘yes’ on a repeal bill and so did a House committee, leaving just one final hurdle left. But like in Utah, Washington lawmakers ran out of time before they could get the bill to the Governor’s desk. The state, however, was a veritable echo chamber of voices calling for repeal, from families of murder victims, law enforcement, newspaper editorial boards, and, recently, from Kirk Bloodsworth, who had the personal experience of being exonerated from death row. Stay tuned for what is sure to be an exciting campaign next year.

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Lawmakers across the country re-evaluating the death penalty

Marc at MT capitol

EJUSA’s Marc Hyden speaks at the Montana State Capitol in advance of a hearing to repeal the death penalty.

State capitals are buzzing as lawmakers return for this year’s state legislative sessions. It’s no surprise that the death penalty is on the agenda in so many places, given the growing movement away from executions.

There has long been strong support for death penalty repeal in Kansas, but due to many circumstances, repeal bills haven’t received committee hearings in recent years. This year, a diverse range of Kansans – murder victims’ family members, faith leaders, those with law enforcement experience, and legal experts – were able to express their support for repeal in front of a House committee. The hearing room was standing room only with supporters of the bill, and those testifying in favor of repeal outnumbered opponents 9 to 1.

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Republicans at the forefront of death penalty repeal campaigns

Republicans at the forefront of death penalty repeal campaignsMost states will start the New Year with a new legislative session, which means supporters of death penalty repeal are preparing efforts to end the death penalty across the country. In the wake of repeal in Nebraska – an effort championed by conservatives – more Republicans are stepping up to lead many of these campaigns.

In Kansas, Republican Representative Steven Becker has already announced his plans to sponsor repeal legislation. In his corner stands the state’s Republican Liberty Caucus and the Kansas Federation of College Republicans, both of which passed resolutions in support of repeal. Last year, the Kansas Republican Party modified its party platform to remove support of the death penalty.
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