Supporters of ending capital punishment in Delaware are gearing up for another attempt to have a bill passed in Dover.
The 148th General Assembly will begin their session in January and the Delaware Repeal Project has been busy coordinating a series of upcoming town hall forums to generate public support.
The town halls will be held Nov. 18-20 and will feature law enforcement officials from New Hampshire, New Jersey and Connecticut who will share their reasons why they oppose the death penalty.
Delaware legislators have made previous attempts to end capital punishment and replace it with life without parole, but faced strong opposition from First State law enforcement agencies.
“Some of the most significant opposition has come from law enforcement organizations in the state so we wanted to bring in some folks representing different aspects of law enforcement to give their point of view,” explained Kathleen MacRae, executive director of the Delaware Repeal Project.
Senate Bill 19, was introduced in 2013 and received bipartisan support from house and senate members. It narrowly passed the senate but stalled in the House Judiciary Committee. Since, the 147th General Assembly was not able to pass the bill during their term, a new bill will need to be introduced.
“It may be January, it may be March but we definitely have plans,” MacRae added. “We’re working with legislators in the Senate and in the House to introduce repeal legislation.”
Following the outcome of the election earlier this month, a handful of new lawmakers and a new Delaware new attorney general will be helping to shape policy in the state. MacRae said there’s a lot of “unknowns” as to how a bill would fare in the new General Assembly but hopes the town halls will provide education and raise curiosity about the issue.
“The death penalty is a controversial issue, there’s a lot of different points of view on it from law enforcement prospective, from victim’s family perspective,” MacRae said. “It’s an emotional issue, sometimes it’s a hard issue to talk about.”
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell has been relatively neutral on the subject.
“If it does come back up it's certainly a conversation I’m more than willing to have,” Markell said during a recent interview on “First.”
Markell granted clemency to convicted murder Robert Gattis in 2012 after the Delaware Board of Pardons votes to reduce the sentence.
There are currently 16 inmates on Delaware’s Death Row.