By: Emma Tacke, Associate Director of Community Engagement
With most states well into their 2019 legislative sessions, CMN has several exciting updates to share. Here's what's happening in the movement to end the death penalty:
Let’s begin with the news everyone has been talking about! On Wednesday, March 13, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom made a historic step toward abolition by declaring a moratorium on all executions.
“The intentional killing of another person is wrong. And as Governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual,” Newsom stated in the press conference immediately following his announcement.
The implications of shutting down the California’s death row -- the largest in the Western Hemisphere -- are great. The moratorium grants reprieve to the 737 men and women currently awaiting execution in California, including the 24 who had exhausted all their appeals and were most at risk for imminent execution. It also resulted in the dismantling the execution chamber in San Quentin State Prison, and the withdrawal of California's lethal injection protocol.
For California--which has not had an execution since 2006 and last year issued the lowest number of death sentences of the past 40 years--a moratorium seems like a natural step. Governor Newsom's bold action reflects a growing national trend: the death penalty is falling out of favor with the American public.
The Golden State joins Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Colorado as the fourth state to have a governor-imposed moratorium.
The Boulder state was off to a promising start with its own plans to end the death penalty this year. Colorado has been in a governor-imposed moratorium since 2013. A death penalty repeal bill was introduced earlier this month, but after passing out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill was stalled due to perceived lack of potential "yes" votes from the Senate. While abolition efforts have come to an end for this legislative session, future bills to end Colorado's death penalty are sure to be expected in 2020.
New Hampshire has been steadily moving its second repeal bill within two years through the state legislature. On March 7th, the New Hampshire House passed HB455 by a margin of 279-88. The bill was introduced into the Senate earlier this week, If it garners enough votes, the bill will then be sent to Governor Chris Sununu. Although Governor Sununu is predicted to veto any death penalty repeal legislation sent to his desk (as was the case in 2018), this year there is strong possibility that the House and Senate have a veto-proof majority which could override a governor’s veto.
Efforts this year to repeal Wyoming’s death penalty were the strongest seen in recent history. After passing by a wide margin in the Wyoming House, the Republican-sponsored bill was sent to the Senate in mid-February where it passed unanimously in the Judiciary Committee. Although the repeal bill ultimately fell short of passing a full Senate vote, Wyoming has now firmly solidified itself as a state to watch for future abolition efforts.
This legislative session in Kansas a death penalty abolition bill was robustly supported in the House by both Democrats and Republicans with an impressive 32 sponsors--the most ever seen for a Kansas repeal bill. Although the bill did not advance out of committee, the notable number of sponsors signifies growing support for repeal in Kansas.
A bill to repeal Louisiana’s death penalty is expected to be introduced soon after the state’s legislative session begins April 8th.
Stay tuned for more updates as these repeal bills move through their their respective legislatures.