DES MOINES – The incoming chairman of the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee said Monday that legislation seeking to reinstate a limited death penalty in Iowa will not be considered during the 2013 session.
Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said current Iowa law provides that a person convicted of a capital offense is sentenced to serve the rest of their life in prison without the possibility of parole. He said he believes that penalty has worked effectively and he’s not interested in returning a system of imposing capital punishment that was repealed in 1965.
“The bottom line for me is Iowa hasn’t had it for over 40 years, there’s bipartisan opposition and we already have enough killing. I don’t think more killing helps and in Iowa it’s very clear we have life in prison without the possibility of parole,” he said.
Hogg’s comments came on a day when Gov. Terry Branstad met with parents of three missing or killed Iowa children and a state senator pushing to reinstate the death penalty. The governor met Monday forenoon with Drew Collins, Addonis Hill, Noreen Gosch and Republican state Sen. Kent Sorenson of Milo.
Collins is the father of Elizabeth Collins, an Evansdale girl whose body was discovered in a wooded area in rural Bremer County last week along with the body of her cousin Lyric Cook-Morrissey. Elizabeth was 8 and Lyric was 10 when they went for a bike ride in July and didn’t return. Hill is the father of Donnisha Hill who was kidnapped and murdered in Waterloo in 2006, and Gosch is the mother of Johnny Gosch, a boy from West Des Moines who has been missing since 1982.
On Monday, Branstad reiterated his supports for reinstating a limited death penalty in certain circumstances, although he said it wasn’t a legislative priority of his because he doubted it would get support in the General Assembly.
“I’ve always said that I think we should consider a very modest reinstatement to protect innocent victims of kidnapping or rape that are then murdered,” the governor told reporters at his weekly news conference on Monday. “However, I’m also realistic about the situation. The political reality is I think the present leadership of (Iowa) Senate is not going to let this be debated.”
However, Sorenson has said he will introduce legislation to reinstate the death penalty in Iowa during the legislative session that begins Jan. 14.
“They are obviously free to file bills,” Hogg said Monday. “The Senate Judiciary Committee under my chairman is not going to be taking up that bill for consideration.”
Hogg said he wanted to see the state boost its funding for public safety and make certain law enforcement agencies are “deploying all the resources of state government to catch the perpetrator or perpetrators of that offense. We’ve got to find them and bring them to justice. To me, that’s my bigger concern than having a debate about the death penalty. We’ve got to find who committed those offenses and bring them to justice.”
Hogg added that he is not convinced that a death penalty, even limited to certain circumstances, would deter crimes from being committed as proponents claim.
“To my knowledge, there is no data that supports the concept that the death penalty is a deterrent at all,” the Cedar Rapids Democrat said.
“There are cases where people have actually taken people from Iowa and killed them in other states where there was a death penalty. I think that pretty well shows that there’s no deterrent value there,” Hogg added. “The type of crazy, heinous people who commit these types of offenses, I don’t think they’re paying attention to whether the state has a death penalty or not and I’ve never seen any data that supports that. The experts I’ve talked to who track this stuff very carefully say that there is no positive deterrent effect.”