Progress Across the Country

February 8, 2016

These past weeks have seen great strides in the movement to end the death penalty across the county. The growing recognition that executions detract from a culture of life is fueling real change in public policy!

Delaware: On January 28th, Delaware state representatives finally got the chance to debate a repeal bill after months of the bill languishing in committee. This represented a tremendous opportunity for the broad repeal coalition, including Catholic Mobilizing Network, to raise their voices for racial justice and dignity of the person.

The day before the debate, the Delaware Repeal Project held a press conference and constituents came to Dover to lobby their representatives. Lawmakers, community leaders, and constituents all made a moral appeal for an end to capital punishment, especially highlighting racial injustice inherent in the death penalty system.

Delaware Press Conference

Press Conference held within Delaware Senate chambers

CMN and several Catholic constituents attended the debate to demonstrate Catholic support of repeal. Representative Sean Lynn and Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of Equal Justice Initiative, presented moving testimony in favor of repeal. They both appealed to moral reasoning for an end to capital punishment, stating that vengeance is not an appropriate public policy.

Although the bill did not garner enough votes to pass, there is a chance the bill could be re-introduced this March. Also, the Delaware Supreme Court has put all death sentences on hold while it evaluates the constitutionality of state laws in light of Hurst v Florida. As the movement progresses, we continue to bring the message of mercy to Delaware parishes with our local partners and friends.

Missouri:  The Missouri Senate also debated a repeal bill after it was favorably voted out of committee. This marks a historic moment: a death penalty repeal bill has not been heard for full consideration by the Missouri legislature since 1974.

The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Paul Wieland, is Catholic and has cited his respect for life as motivation for championing the cause. Support for the bill comes from across the aisle in a state that has conducted 18 executions in the past two years.

New Hampshire: New Hampshire lawmakers are considering a bipartisan bill that would suspend executions. At the end of January, diverse voices were raised in testimony for support of suspension of capital punishment.

As 2016 advances, we can also look towards a potential ballot referendum to repeal the death penalty in California, legislative repeal debates in Kansas and in South Dakota, and sentencing reform by the Florida legislature in the wake of Hurst v Florida. We are invigorated by the progress made across the country and continue to be inspired  to work for change.