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Death penalty proposed for specific child murder cases

DES MOINES — A bill to reinstate the death penalty in Iowa — just for those convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering children — has cleared a subcommittee in the Iowa Senate. Sam Jones, pastor of the Faith Baptist Church in Hudson, spoke in favor of the bill during a hearing yesterday.

“What does scripture say? Genesis 9:6, which is where we’d often founding of our civil government says this: ‘Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed,’” he said. “….We’re not talking, of course, about putting to death those that are innocent. We’re talking about those who are guilty.”

Twenty other people spoke. All opposed the bill. Patti McKee of Des Moines told legislators she was the victim of a violent crime.

“Had I died, it would have been to cover up another crime and I stand here opposed to the death penalty,” she said. “Taking a life for a life doesn’t get us anywhere except a more violent society.”

Loxie Hopkins of Davenport said a state-sanctioned death penalty goes against her Catholic faith.

“I understand that you’re talking about the death penalty for just one instance,” she said, “but we have to all know that it won’t stop here.”

Several speakers, like Indira Scheumaker of Des Moines, said minorities are far more likely than white defendants to be sentenced to death.

“Sentencing is harsher for black people,” she said. “…That means there is going to be a disparity of who’s going to be sentenced to the death penalty if we have this.”

Jadyn Lovelady, a Creighton University student, made a similar argument.

“Listen to the reality of what is happening in our country today,” she said. “…It is unacceptable to put this bill forward.”

Others said the cost of capital punishment is far greater than the current sentence for those convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing a minor, which is life in prison with no chance for parole. Republican Senator Julian Garrett of Indianola, the bill’s chief sponsor, responded at the end of the hour-long hearing.

“We had a lot of talk about the killer, the person that did the killing or the accused, but I don’t remember very much discussion about the victims,” Garrett said. “It seems to me they ought to get at least as much, probably more attention from us, than the people that did the killing.”

Garrett and another Republican senator announced their support for the bill at the conclusion of the hearing, making the proposal eligible for consideration in a senate committee.

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