Emotions run high in hearing on bill to abolish death penalty

HELENA — In 1973, Marietta Jager Lane’s 7-year-old daughter, Susie, was abducted in the night from a Montana campground. Over the course of a week, Susie Jager’s captor repeatedly raped her before strangling her and dismembering her body.

In 2000, Rep. Tom Berry’s 17-year-old son was kidnapped, beaten, tortured, and eventually shot in the head six times before his killers twice tried to burn his body.

What Lane and Berry do not share is the same view on the death penalty.

Their stories were among the two hours of heart-wrenching testimony given to members of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday morning on a bill to end the death penalty in Montana.

The measure, House Bill 370, by Rep. Dough Kary, R-Billings, would replace the death penalty with the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Kary told the committee that the death penalty is costly to taxpayer, ineffective as a deterrent and could eventually lead to the state-sanctioned death of an innocent, wrongfully convicted person.

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