"House panel votes down bill to abolish the death penalty," is Mike Dennison's report in the Helena Independent Record.
On an 8-10 vote, the House Judiciary Committee against Senate Bill 236, which would abolish the death penalty in the state and replace it with a sentence of life in prison without parole.
All nine Republicans on the evenly split committee voted against the bill, as did Democratic Rep. Arlene Becker of Billings. The panel’s remaining eight Democrats voted for the measure.
Unless supporters of SB236 can somehow change a vote in the committee or revive the bill on the House floor -- which is unlikely -- the bill is dead. The measure had been approved by the Republican-controlled Senate last month.
Committee members on both sides of the issue often cited religious and biblical reasons or justifications for their vote today.
“I think having the death penalty does more to undermine the public’s faith in their laws and the criminal justice system and the system’s ability to treat people fairly almost more than any other thing,” he said. “I think those costs far outweigh anything that we gain from having the death penalty.”
The Great Falls Tribune carries an AP report, "Montana to keep death penalty."
measure to end capital punishment had passed the GOP-controlled Senate, giving-death penalty opponents hope that it could clear the Legislature this year — especially after New Mexico lawmakers passed a ban earlier this month.
But the Montana House Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 against the ban. It would be difficult, but not impossible, for those pushing the ban to bring the bill back this year.
Supporters of Senate Bill 236 argue that enforcing the death penalty costs more than mandatory life in prison without parole, and that the risk of executing an innocent man is too great. The supporters of a ban also said the death penalty is unethical and is hard on employees of the justice and corrections systems.
Two inmates are on death row in Montana. One is Canadian Ronald A. Smith, who has been the subject of some debate in his home country over whether to keep seeking clemency that would change his penalty to life in prison. In the early 1980s Smith was convicted of a double murder.
Montana has executed three people since reinstatement of the death penalty in the 1970s. The most recent execution, of convicted murderer David Dawson, occurred in 2006.
StandDown's coverage of the vote, with links to earlier coverage, is here.