Democrats introduce bill to ban the death penalty in Delaware amid attempts to reinstate it

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Legislative Hall – Dover, DE

A constitutional amendment has been brought forth in Delaware by two Democratic lawmakers who want to render the death penalty unconstitutional amid attempts to reinstate it.

State Representative Sean Lynn and State Senator Bryan Townsend have teamed up to introduce the legislation to deem the death penalty explicitly unconstitutional under Delaware’s constitution.

Rep. Lynn argues that science proves that the death penalty is not a deterrent from the crimes that would constitute it which have been used by supporters of reinstatement.

“Science tells us that the prevailing argument for the reinstatement of the death penalty – deterrence – is completely without merit,” Rep. Lynn stated. “Eighty-Eight Percent (88%) of the Nation’s top criminologists believe the death penalty is not a deterrent.”

Fellow Delawareans, Please see the within Bill just circulated by myself and my Colleague Senator Bryan Townsend. I…

Posted by Sean Lynn for Delaware on Friday, February 14, 2020

Rep. Lynn is also arguing that the death penalty is racially disparate to minorities depending on the crime, specifically African Americans who have killed white people. He says they are “six times more likely to be sentenced to death in Delaware” than if they had killed another black person.

“Despite uncontested empirical evidence that the effects of the Death Penalty resulted in egregious racial disparities, including that black defendants who kill white victims were six times more likely to be sentenced to death in Delaware than black defendants who killed black defendants, we still seem to be fixated on bringing back this civil rights monstrosity,” Rep. Lynn stated in a post encouraging support for the bill.”

The Death Penalty in Delaware has been struck down and reinstated multiple times since 1972.

Currently, a bill to reinstate the death penalty is being considered in the Delaware General Assembly.

The Egregious Crimes Accountability Act limits the aggravating circumstances attached to a murder to four categories where prosecutors could consider capital punishment, including mass murder, repeat offenders previously convicted of murder, horribly inhumane and hate crimes.

Before the Delaware Supreme Court struck down Delaware’s capital punishment statute, there were 22 aggravating circumstances that could have made a murderer eligible for capital punishment.

House Bill 165, which is pending action in the House Judiciary Committee, seeks to fix and restore this version of the law.

Among the sponsors of that legislation is State Senator Brian Pettyjohn, who said there’s got to be the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime, and that there’s currently no further penalty for inmates serving life sentences for muder who commit similar crimes in prison.

In an interview with WGMD’s Mike Bradley, Sen. Pettyjohn explains…

“It’s a horrible bill,” Senator Pettyjohn said referring to his colleague’s attempts to render the death penalty unconstitutional. “As it is now, if you’re in prison for murder, if you’ve got a life sentence, there’s no further penalty for you, you can kill another inmate, a corrections officer, and guess what you’re not going to get any more of a punishment. So, you know, there’s got to be the ultimate punishment for the ultimate, horrible crimes that are out there.”

Any attempts to amend the state’s constitution, including the proposal from Rep. Lynn and Sen. Townsend, will have to be passed twice in the General Assembly as two separate legs of legislation and will require a super majority of votes, meaning that some Republicans will have to be onboard for it to pass.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, capital punishment is currently authorized in 29 states, by the federal government, and the U.S. military.