Michigan House Nixes Death Penalty Bill

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
April 22, 1999 12:00 am

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DETROIT — Death penalty advocates, who twice in recent years have launched unsuccessful petition drives to have the issue placed on the Michigan ballot, were dealt a stunning blow yesterday when members of the state House of Representatives issued a resounding “no” to their plans to implement capital punishment through the legislature.

With a two-thirds majority vote needed to advance the bill to put capital punishment on the 2000 ballot, the House did not come close to the number of votes needed as House Joint Resolution H was sent back to committee where it is not expected to surface again during this legislative session.

Three capital punishment bills have been introduced in the state Senate, but both chambers must approve the legislation by a two-thirds majority for it to advance to the ballot.

“We are pleased that the House had the good sense not to move this issue forward,” said ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary L. Moss. “At a time when other states are placing a moratorium on capital punishment, Michigan should not be considering a move to restore it.”

Michigan is the oldest English-speaking juristiction to ban the death penalty. The state eliminated capital punishment in 1846 after and innocent man had been hanged. The ban became part of Michigan’s Constitution in 1963.

In recent years, two petition drives sponsored by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson could not generate the number of valid signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

With sweeping Republican gains in both the House and Senate in November, proponents of capital punishment thought the door had opened to putting the issue on the ballot legislatively. Wednesday’s vote showed that House members have listened to the recent outcry against the measure by the public and top state leaders on the issue.

Michigan Gov. John Engler has voiced his opposition to capital punishment as have the prosecutors in two of the state’s three largest counties, Wayne and Macomb.

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