The Billings Gazette reports, "Bill seeking death penalty abolition inspires emotional testimony," by Charles S. Johnson. It's also available via the Helena Independent Record and the Montana Standard.
Some families of murder victims lined up opposite side of a bill Thursday to abolish the death penalty in Montana and replace it with life imprisonment with no possibility of parole.
Some religious leaders also were divided on House Bill 370, by Rep. Doug Kary, R-Billings, at a long, emotional hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. The panel took no immediate action the bill.
Kary told the committee it isn’t a debate over whether the death penalty is philosophically or morally an acceptable punishment.
“This is about whether the death penalty is working here in Montana, whether it’s an effective policy,” he said. “I would argue it is not. I would argue it’s broken. If we haven’t executed an innocent person in Montana, it’s out of sheer luck.”
Litigation over appeals by those sentenced to death here is “wasting millions of dollars on less than a handful of cases, while police, courts and prisons beg for more resources, resources that could actually keep our communities safe,” he said.
"Emotions run high in hearing on bill to abolish death penalty," is by John S. Adams for the Great Falls Tribune.
In 1973, Marietta Jager Lane’s 7-year-old daughter, Susie, was abducted in the night from a Montana campground. Over the course of a week, Susie Jager’s captor repeatedly raped her before strangling her and dismembering her body.
In 2000, Rep. Tom Berry’s 17-year-old son was kidnapped, beaten, tortured, and eventually shot in the head six times before his killers twice tried to burn his body.
What Lane and Berry do not share is the same view on the death penalty.
Their stories were among the two hours of heart-wrenching testimony given to members of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday morning on a bill to end the death penalty in Montana.
The measure, House Bill 370, by Rep. Dough Kary, R-Billings, would replace the death penalty with the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Kary told the committee that the death penalty is costly to taxpayer, ineffective as a deterrent and could eventually lead to the state-sanctioned death of an innocent, wrongfully convicted person.
A group of Republican lawmakers opposed to the death penalty submitted a letter to the committee urging members to pass the measure on to the House where it could get a full debate.
Committee chairman Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel, said the committee will take executive action on the bill at the committee’s Feb. 22 meeting.
Earlier coverage from Montana begins at the link.