Legislative Activity - Minnesota

 

  • Minnesota Committee Votes Down Death Penalty Following two hours of testimony including representatives of crime victims and death row exonerees, the Minnesota Senate Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee voted 8-2 against reinstating the death penalty, continuing nearly a century without the sentence on the state's books. The Committee's vote likely blocks passage of the death penalty bill this year. Don Streufert, whose daughter was raped and murdered in 1991, was among those who testified against the bill. He noted, ÒNo penalty or punishment can replace our daughter. We find no healing or comfort in the prospect of any murderer's execution. A poll released in February found that more Minnesotans oppose the reinstatement of capital punishment than support it. (Associated Press, March 24, 2004) See Victims.
  • Minnesota Governor Calls for Referendum on Death Penalty Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said that voters should decide via a constitutional amendment referendum whether to reinstate a state death penalty. Representative Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, argued that "[t]he death penalty serves no legitimate purpose. It's applied unfairly, falling disproportionately on the poor, people of color and, in too many cases, on the innocent. It's also a budget buster, sapping resources from education, health care and public safety." Pawlenty countered those arguments with a long list of proposed provisions that he said would reserve the death penalty for those who truly deserve it. The proposed provisions include:
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    • a requirement of DNA "genetic fingerprint" evidence linking the suspect to the crime
    • it would apply only to 1st-degree murder of 2 or more persons, a public safety official or one person involving sexual assault or other "heinous, atrocious or cruel" actions
    • unanimous jury decisions would be required
    • the county attorney's recommendation of the death penalty would have to be confirmed by a "peer review" board of fellow prosecutors
    • the state Supreme Court would review all death sentences
    • a Clemency Board would be established that could urge the governor to grant reprieve to a condemned convict
    • the death penalty would not apply to defendants under the age of 18, or to those defendants found to be mentally disabled
    • the death penalty would not apply when eyewitness testimony is by a jail informant
    • Lethal Injection, deemed by Pawlenty to be the most humane, would be the sole method of execution (Minneapolis Star Tribune, January 28, 2004)