Republican legislators are apparently going to introduce a bill to reinstate the death penalty, which is odd since they have already introduced a bill to reinstate the death penalty. Last year. That bill is still pending in committee. It’s House 165, the Extreme Crimes Protection Act, which is a naming travesty since it implies that Republicans want to protect Extreme Crimes. Which, given the coming vote in the Senate on protecting the corrupt criminal Trump, we know that to be true. But I digress.
Regardless, that bill is there, and Republicans seem to have fallen out of love with it. I get it. It is a little complicated because it attempts to revise Delaware’s death penalty statute, which is still on the books but has been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. and Delaware Supreme Courts. In accordance with both court’s rulings, HB165 would allow the death penalty only when a jury a jury unanimously agrees there is at least one eligible aggravating circumstance that outweighs any mitigating factors. There would be 22 potential aggravating circumstances.
I guess that was too much for Republicans, so the new bill will only have 4 possible aggravating circumstances: 1) mass murder (the killing of at least three people in a public place), 2) a prior murder conviction involving the defendant, 3) the killing being motivated by a hate crime and 4) the offense being “outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman.” The bill would not define mitigating circumstances so as to give the defense more freedom to make a case for the accused’s innocence.
The reintroduction of the bill and simplifying it was probably the better political move for the Republicans as it reintroduces the issue in an election year and the bill probably may be more palatable to some moderate Democrats, in that they could say that they only approve of the death penalty in the most violent or heinous offenders. Indeed, the House, even when controlled by Democrats, passed a Death Penalty Restoration bill in 2017, but it died in the Senate without getting a vote. The tally was 24-16. Here is the breakdown of that vote:
YES (for death penalty) – Briggs King, Carson, Collins, D.Short, Dukes, Gray, Hensley, Hudson, Jaques, Kenton, Longhurst, M.Smith, Mitchell, Mulrooney, Osienski, Outten, Paradee, Postles, Q.Johnson, Schwartzkopf, Smyk, Spiegelman, Wilson, Yearick
NO (against the death penalty) – B.Short, Baumbach, Bennett, Bentz, Bolden, Brady, Heffernan, J.Johnson, K.Williams, Keeley, Kowalko, Lynn, Matthews, Miro, Potter, Viola
ABSENT – Ramone
A lot has changed with the General Assembly membership since that vote, though. Melanie Smith is gone, replaced by Kendra Johnson, who is possibly a no vote. The same is true for Mike Mulrooney, who has been replaced by Melissa Minor Brown. So that brings us down to 22 votes. We need two more votes to defeat this bill. Joe Miro’s no vote got replaced by Michael Smith, who might be a yes vote, unfortunately. So now we need three more votes.
Krista Griffith replaced Deborah Hudson, so that could be a no vote and we are back down to 22 votes. Paradee got promoted to the Senate, so perhaps Bill Bush, who replaced Paradee, could be a no, but don’t bank on it.
So if this bill gets a vote in the House, it will likely pass, 22-19. In the Senate, you can assume that Paradee and Ennis are yes votes. So unless this bill could pass the Senate 11-10 if all other Democrats vote no and Republicans vote yes.
HOUSE BILL 165 — Currently in the House Judiciary Committee since 5/16/19
DEMOCRATIC SPONSORS – Ennis, Carson
REPUBLICAN SPONSORS – Smyk, Lawson, Pettyjohn, Wilson, Dukes, Morris, D.Short, Spiegelman, Vanderwende
YES VOTES –
NO VOTES –