Delaware has not executed a death row inmate since 2012. In 2016, the Delaware Supreme Court declared the state’s death penalty statute unconstitutional. In Rauf v. State of Delaware, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled that the statute violated capital defendants’ right to a jury trial by allowing the judge, rather than the jury, determine whether the prosecution had proven all the facts necessary to impose a death sentence and by permitting death sentences to be imposed without a unanimous jury vote that aggravating circumstances (reasons for death) outweighed mitigating circumstances (reasons for life) beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Supreme Court later ruled that its ruling in Rauf applied to 13 remaining prisoners on the state’s death row. Therefore, since 2016, the death penalty in Delaware is essentially dead. But all it takes for that to change is for there to be a change in the composition of the Court or for the legislature to pass a new death penalty statute that passes constitutional muster.
House Bill 70 would codify the current state of affairs, repealing the unconstitutional death penalty statute and eliminating the death penalty as a potential punishment in Delaware. Under this bill, the penalty for a person who is convicted of first-degree murder for an offense that was committed after the person’s 18th birthday is imprisonment for the remainder of the person’s natural life without benefit of probation or parole or any other sentence reduction.
Given the prevalence of former police officers in the House membership and leadership, it is unlikely this bill gets a vote in the House, with most probably viewing this bill as moot since the death penalty has already been declared unconstitutional. But if something changes that status quo, this bill may see action.
|House Bill 70 – Repeal of the Delaware Death Penalty||Currrent Status – House Judiciary 1/25/23|
|House Sponsors – Lynn, Morrison, Baumbach, Neal||Senate Sponsors – Gay, Hoffner, McBride|
|House Yes Votes –||Senate Yes Votes –|
|House No Votes –||Senate No Votes –|
|House Absents or Not Voting –||Senate Absent or Not Voting –|
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