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December 10th, 2012

Debating the Death Penalty in Iowa

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Written by: Kevin Hall
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State Senator Kent Sorenson (R-Milo) says he would like the death penalty reinstated in Iowa. Sorenson told reporters that last week’s discovery of the bodies of the two missing Evansdale girls prompted him to call for the reinstatement of capital punishment.

Currently, life in prison is the harshest penalty a convicted felon can receive in Iowa. The state repealed the death penalty in 1965. Senator Sorenson plans to introduce a bill to reinstate it when the legislature convenes in January. He believes the death penalty would serve as a much stronger deterrent for criminals.

The bill is unlikely to go far since Democrats maintained the majority in the Iowa Senate. It is doubtful Sorenson will find enough crossover votes to support its passage. Some Republicans might balk at it, as well. If the bill did somehow pass the legislature, Governor Branstad might sign the death penalty into law, depending on the provisions in the bill.

“Governor Branstad favors it only in the case of two Class A felonies,” Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht told TheIowaRepublican. Currently, someone convicted of a Class A felony receives life in prison without parole. Their only chance of getting out would require the governor commuting the sentence.

The death penalty is another issue that divides people mainly on party lines. Democrats cannot understand how the “pro-life” Republican Party can favor the death penalty. Republicans don’t get how Democrats find it so easy to end the life of a baby in the womb, but are strictly opposed to executing murderers and rapists.

Speaking from the Republican point of view, the stance is very simple. The baby inside the womb is 100% innocent. He or she has the right to live.

However, someone sentenced to death committed a crime so atrocious, they have given up the right to live. In this age of DNA testing, we are now able to find near-absolute evidence of someone’s guilt. The felon was convicted by a jury of his peers, had the chance to go through the appeals process, made pleas to the governor for leniency and likely sat for many years on death row before the execution. This person destroyed an innocent life. In doing so, he or she deserves the ultimate punishment.

We do not yet know the manner in which the 10-year old Lyric Cook and 8-year old Elizabeth Collins died, but whoever killed them undoubtedly committed a heinous crime. The debate over what kind of punishment they should receive will likely be an intense one.

This tragedy might also spur the Iowa Legislature to act on bills such as Katie’s Law, which allows law enforcement to collect a DNA sample from anyone who is charged with a felony or aggravated misdemeanor. A similar bill was debated last year, but failed to pass. Law enforcement officials believe Katie’s Law would be a valuable crimefighting tool.

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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