Council supports death penalty repeal, group home moratorium

By Tom Lehman 11:43pm, April 18, 2013 - Updated 10:36am, April 19, 2013
Council members discuss the resolution supporting efforts by state lawmakers to repeal of the death penalty
Wilmington City Council debated whether it should support efforts by state lawmakers to repeal the death penalty and requested the state put a moratorium on group homes within the city limits at Thursday night's meeting.

WDEL's Tom Lehman reports.

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Councilwoman Sherry Dorsey Walker, who sponsored the resolution in question, says repealing the death penalty would help free up money used to fight the appeals of death row inmates, which could be used to improve public safety.

"That money can be going to their departments versus going into the prison system," Dorsey Walker says.

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Before a vote took place, the councilwoman said she had originally supported the death penalty after a loved one was killed when she was 11 years old.

"It was like the only way this could be resolved is if the people responsible had to feel like we felt," she said.

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She then explained that her views changed upon religious reflection when she grew older and she became involved with Delaware Repeal.

However, Councilman Samuel Prado disagreed that council should support death penalty repeal, especially since he believes it's only reserved for the worst of criminals. He invoked the crimes committed by convicted murderer and rapist Brian Steckel, who was executed in 2005.

"I think we have short memories in this state. There are people who I just...they don't deserve to live," Prado says.

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The resolution passed in a 9-2 decision. Councilwoman Loretta Walsh was among those who supported it.

"Just the chance that a mistake is made, is almost as horrific as the crime to think about," Walsh says.

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Council asks for moratorium on group homes

Council also passed a resolution asking the state to put a six-month moratorium on group homes within the city limits until a more "stringent" review process is developed.

The resolution calls on Gov. Markell and the state Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) to put a moratorium on new group homes located in Wilmington.

Councilwoman Walsh sponsored the resolution and says the process of determining the location of group homes needs to be addressed.

"It just seems to be on overdrive, and that whenever there is something seems to be a potential problem, if it's in the city it's out of sight, out of mind," Walsh says.

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Councilman Prado was among those who voted for the resolution, which passed in a 8-2 vote, and says he believes the city is being forced to accommodate a disproportionate amount of group homes.

"All of these homes are being put in the city and all we're saying is that they should be a little more equitable in the way there being funded and dispersed throughout our state," Prado says.

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Walsh originally intended for the resolution to request a one-year moratorium, but it was amended to half that time.

Council honors first female police inspector, state champion basketball teams

Council also presented resolutions honoring the Wilmington Police Department's first female inspector, Nancy Dietz, who leaves the department after 33 years of service.

Two state championship winning high school basketball squads, the Howard boys' team and St. Elizabeth girls team, were also presented resolutions at the meeting.

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