Today's Iowa City Press-Citizen publishes the editorial, "Our View: Iowa shouldn't go back to the death penalty."
But as we Iowans grieve with the families of Elizabeth and Lyric — just like we grieve with the friends and family of the dead in Newtown, Conn. — we also need to make sure these horrific events don’t lead to an emotion-based decision to get rid of the state’s nearly half-century-old ban on capital punishment.
We can understand why these deaths would revive calls for the death penalty in Iowa. We saw similar calls in 2005 and 2006 after the body of 10-year-old Jetseta Gage was found in an abandoned mobile home and Roger Bentley was convicted of her kidnapping and murder.
And Gov. Terry Branstad was right to meet with the families of such victims to hear firsthand their demands for justice.
But Branstad also said he won’t prioritize such a measure during the next legislative session largely for political reasons — even if the proposal were to pass the Iowa House, the Democratic leaders of the Iowa Senate would be unlikely to bring the measure up for debate.
“I like to focus on things that have a realistic chance of being approved,” Branstad told reporters during a Capitol news conference. “Considering the present makeup of te Senate, and Sen. (Mike) Gronstal’s adamant position, we need to focush on things that I can accomplish in the next couple years.”
We’re glad for Branstad’s pragmatism and Gronstal’s opposition because we don’t think Iowa’s law should be changed in the heat of such overwhelming emotion. Instead, we think Iowa’s courtrooms need to remain a site for justice rather than for blood vengeance.
"Parents plead for death penalty," is the Des Moines Register report written by William Petroski.
The parents of four missing or slain Iowa children met with Gov. Terry Branstad on Monday and pleaded with the Iowa Legislature to reinstate the death penalty.
“We are going to fight and we are not going to give up,” said Heather Collins, the mother of Elizabeth Collins, one of two cousins presumed kidnapped and slain this summer.
Branstad, a longtime supporter of capital punishment in limited circumstances, expressed his sympathy for the parents, but he told reporters he won’t make the death penalty a priority in the next legislative session. He said he knows such a bill would be blocked by Democrats who control the Iowa Senate.
Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, who will chair the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 2013 legislative session, confirmed Branstad’s political analysis Monday.
“The death penalty is not going to be brought up in the Senate Judiciary Committee for debate,” Hogg said. “Iowa hasn’t had a death penalty since the 1960s. Not in my lifetime have we had a death penalty, and there is just no need for a death penalty.”
The Legislature repealed the death penalty in 1965. Since then, all those convicted of first-degree murder and the most serious cases of kidnapping and rape have been sentenced to life in prison. Currently, 680 inmates are serving life sentences in the state’s prison system, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections.
Earlier coverage from Iowa begins at the link.