Capital Punishment Repeal Bill Defeated

DOVER – Legislation that would repeal capital punishment in Delaware advanced further than previous attempts Thursday, but ultimately failed to win passage on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 40, sponsored by Sen. Karen Peterson and Rep. Sean Lynn, failed in the House by a 16-23 vote, two members absent, falling five votes short of the 21 needed for passage. The measure passed the Senate last year with a bare majority of 11 votes. Although she voted “No” on the bill, Rep. Kim Williams, D-Newport, is a supporter of the bill and did so only as a procedural move.

SB 40 would effectively repeal Delaware’s statute allowing for capital punishment in first-degree murder cases, with an exemption for inmates currently on death row.

Though the bill fell short of passage, Rep. Lynn was optimistic that the effort to repeal Delaware’s death penalty would be successful in the very near future. He pointed to the bill receiving votes in both chambers this session, unlike previous versions, which failed to clear House committee.

“We’ve come further today than ever before, and the bill was given its due hearing before the House,” said Rep. Lynn, D-Dover. “Though we did not prevail today, we will not give up the fight to repeal Delaware’s arcane capital punishment system. My fellow supporters and I will spend the next several months trying to persuade our colleagues that they should vote ‘yes’ on this measure when we return for the next legislative session.

“In the last few years, we’ve made huge strides in advancing civil rights. We have accomplished things that seemed impossible even a decade ago, ending the status quo in the interest of equality, fairness and tolerance. Although I’m disappointed with today’s result, our battle isn’t over. We will be paying very close attention to the Delaware Supreme Court’s forthcoming opinion on the constitutionality of capital punishment in our state.”