Death penalty repeal narrowly passes in state Senate

By Amy Cherry 8:03pm, March 26, 2013 - Updated 2:15pm, March 27, 2013
Delaware is one step closer to becoming the seventh state to repeal the death penalty after a repeal bill clears a vote in the state Senate though it no longer spares the lives of current death row inmates.

WDEL's Amy Cherry has more.

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"Roll call on Senate Bill #19. 11 yes and 10 no."

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The death penalty repeal bill passed with just one vote to spare after an three-hour emotional, tense and grueling debate.

Democratic state Senator Bryan Townsend says he had to do some soul-searching, but supports the death penalty repeal.

"I hope that any cost savings achieved by repeal of the death penalty are directed towards police services, victims' services," says Townsend (D-Newark).

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Republican state Senator Dave Lawson (R-Marydel), a retired police officer, voted "no," and was quite adamant about it.

"Our system fails us miserably. We need to keep these animals in jail. We need to put these animals under the jail," says Lawson.

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Stu Dotts, a former juror for the first James Cooke capital murder trial, testified it's an emotional hell, deciding whether a man should live or die.

"And even though I know that I did nothing wrong, I will always carry the stain of one that has killed a fellow human being," says Dotts.

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Senator Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown) voted "no."

"If they're going to take the life of one of our law enforcement officer, I can think of no greater, more deserving penalty than to put these animals to death," says Pettyjohn.

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Senator Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington North) voted "yes" to repeal the bill, but says he had to do some soul searching.

"I know if one of these beasts had committed some of the things that had been described today to my loved ones, I would go after them like savage, if not restrained," admits McDowell.

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Senator Bobby Marshall (D-Wilmington West) had a tough time with this measure too, but ultimately voted "yes."

"A convicted killer convicted of first-degree murder could end up in the general population, and I don't support that, and don't believe that that should be allowed to happen. But life in hell, in the shoe, in some cases could be hell on Earth," says Marshall.

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The 11-10 decision sends the measure to the House, where if it passes, it would become law, if Governor Markell signs it though so far, he's refused to say where he stands on the issue.

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