After a 90-minute, emotionally charged debate, the Republican-controlled state Senate today endorsed a bill to abolish the death penalty in Montana.
Supporters of Senate Bill 236 said the death penalty is a costly, imperfect penalty that doesn't deter crime and does more harm than good for the families of those who are horribly murdered.
"In order for punishment to be effective, it must be swift and it must be sure," said Sen. Dave Wanzenried, D-Missoula, the sponsor of SB236. "The death penalty is neither."
Opponents argued just as passionately that Montana should maintain the harshest penalty for those who commit the most heinous crimes.
"This state needs to have an ultimate form of punishment for those people who have done something that is so egregious to society that we have a bounded duty to take that person out of society," said Sen. Dan McGee, R-Laurel.
Yet by a 27-23 vote, supporters of the bill carried the day, setting up a final, binding vote Tuesday that would send the measure to the House, which is split evenly between the two parties.
Six Republicans joined 21 Democrats in the Senate for SB236, while 21 Republicans and two Democrats voted "no."
By MIKE DENNISON
Gazette State Bureau