Capital Punishment Repeal Bill Released From Committee

DOVER – House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Larry Mitchell announced today that he has taken action to release legislation repealing capital punishment in Delaware from committee. House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf has committed to placing Senate Bill 40 on the House agenda for Thursday, January 28.

Senate Bill 40, sponsored by Sen. Karen Peterson and Rep. Sean Lynn, was heard in the House Judiciary Committee last spring, but failed to secure enough votes to be released to the full House. Rep. Mitchell, who voted against releasing the bill last year, said today that he signed SB 40 out of committee with an “unfavorable” endorsement, which will allow the bill to move forward.

“As a retired New Castle County Police officer, I am personally opposed to repealing capital punishment. However, it is clear to me that this issue deserves to be presented to all the members of the House for debate and an up-or-down vote,” said Rep. Mitchell, D-Elsmere. “Some of my fellow colleagues in the Democratic Caucus want to see this bill on the House floor, and I agree with them.”

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.

“I have stated from the beginning that although I oppose repealing the death penalty, I would respect the legislative process and place the bill on a House agenda if and when it was released from committee,” said Rep. Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, a retired Delaware State Police captain. “I thank Rep. Mitchell for his leadership.”

Rep. Lynn said he appreciated Rep. Mitchell signing the bill out of committee despite his opposition to the proposal.

“I would like to thank Rep. Mitchell for recognizing the importance of bringing this bill forward and Speaker Schwartzkopf for keeping his commitment to putting SB 40 on the floor for a debate and up-or-down vote,” said Rep. Lynn, D-Dover. “I feel strongly that capital punishment has no place in our criminal justice system today. I hope that my colleagues will have a healthy and civil debate on this important issue.”

Rep. Schwartzkopf said he will place SB 40 on an agenda for a day certain on Thursday, January 28.