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Death penalty bill eligible for full Senate debate

March 8, 2019

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Senate committee has narrowly passed a death penalty bill making it eligible for debate this year, the first time since the mid-1990s the issue will make it that far if it’s debated.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill out on an 8-7 vote Thursday. Two Republicans joined the committee’s five Democrats to oppose the bill including Sen. Kevin Kinney, a former sheriff’s deputy who investigated the death of 10-year-old Jetseta Gage. She was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender near Iowa City in 2005. Kinney says he’s come to realize life in prison is more severe than the death penalty.

A similar bill last year failed to get through the committee process. Its chances of survival remain uncertain.

The most recent full debate was in March 1995 when the Senate rejected a bill the Iowa House had approved just days before.

The bill would make it a capital offense to kidnap, rape and murder a minor, crimes Republican Sen. Jason Schultz says are so heinous they justify death.

Iowa abolished the death penalty in 1965.