With a 27 to 23 vote, Montana State senators on Tuesday approved a bill that would abolish capital punishment. Montana is one of 36 states that currently has the death penalty and bill sponsor, Democrat Dave Wanzenried of Missoula, hopes that will change. His bill would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In addressing the Senate, Wanzenried said the death penalty is costly and cumbersome, with appeals of the sentence wearing on a victim’s family.
“Life without the possibility of parole, on the other hand brings about an immediate sentence: life in prison without the possibility of parole, away from the public eye no publicity.”
Wanzenried says the death penalty is not a deterrent to murder and cited neighboring state North Dakota having a lower homicide rate with no death penalty.
Republican Dan McGee of Laurel opposes the bill and says the state needs to have an ultimate form of punishment.
“For those people who have done something so egregious in society that society has a bounded duty to take that person out of society forever.”
Republican Gary Perry of Manhattan says he’s spent his entire life believing in the death penalty.
“A sentence of life without parole with the only means of leaving the prison being a body bag and a toe tag is a life sentence, but according to God’s time table. And the only avenue to freedom is through death.”
Perry says for those who are against abortion voting for the bill shows consistency in those beliefs. Perry voted for the bill.
Montana currently has two people on death row. The bill must pass another vote before heading to the House.
Natalie Neumann is reporting from the state capitol for the University of Montana’s Legislative News Service.