Hearing held on proposal to abolish the death penalty

Via Montana Watchdog:

HELENA – Lawmakers heard from both sides of the debate on abolishing the death penalty in Montana during a hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee that lasted around three hours on Tuesday morning.
Senate Bill 185 is sponsored by Sen. David Wanzenried, D-Missoula. His bill would abolish the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole.
Numerous supporters and opponents of the bill made their case, in sometimes emotional appeals. Supporters said the death penalty is costly and operates in a flawed system that has resulted in innocent people being condemned. Opponents said the death penalty is a necessary tool and deterrent to violent criminals.
In his closing remarks to the committee, Wanzenried alluded to religious remarks made during the hearing by opponents of his bill.
“I’ll remind you, (Jesus) was a victim of the death penalty,” Wanzenried said.
The hearing was occasionally interrupted by senators who objected to points being made that they felt were out of bounds or off topic.
Committee Chairman Terry Murphy, R-Cardwell, said he gave people on both sides a wide latitude in expressing their views.
“It’s always such an emotional issue,” Murphy said after the hearing.
Democrat Cliff Larsen, of Missoula, said Murphy did a good job as chairman on a difficult issue. Larsen said he thinks it’s important for people to be able to vent on such serious issues, but said the committee would not make their decision based on emotion.
“We’re going to focus on the law and it won’t be about the Old Testament or the New Testament,” Larsen said. “It’ll be about the law.”
Prison and Jail Consultant Ron McAndrew, who testified in favor of the bill, said he appreciated hearing both sides. He said other states beside Montana are looking at abolishing the death penalty as well.
“Our nation as a whole is beginning to examine the faults that are in the death penalty as a whole,” he said.
Murphy said he will oppose the bill.
“There are certain crimes where it is justified,” he said. “I don’t think it’ll pass, but who knows.”
Larsen said he plans to support the bill, and believes it has a chance to pass into law.
“I think it’s a toss up.”
No action was taken after the hearing.