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The Latest: Montana lawmakers asked to revise death penalty

February 6, 2019
FILE - In this May 2, 2012 file photo, Ronald Allen Smith addresses the families and friends of Thomas Running Rabbit Jr. and Harvey Mad Man during a clemency hearing in Powell County District court in Deer Lodge, Mont. Smith's family tearfully pleaded with the Montana Parole Board to give clemency to a man they say has changed and deserves to live. The families of the two Blackfeet cousins killed by Smith argued the death sentence should be carried out. Smith is one of two men on death row in Montana, where the 2019 Legislature is considering bills to either revise or abolish the death penalty. (Michael Gallacher/The Missoulian via AP File)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Latest on a bill to modify the death penalty in Montana (all times local):

10:30 a.m.

The ACLU of Montana reluctantly opposes a bill that would require prosecutors to provide indisputable biological proof that a person committed a capital crime before that person can be sentenced to death.

The sponsor, Democratic Rep. Brad Hamlett of Cascade, says the intent is to ensure an innocent person isn’t executed.

SK Rossi with the ACLU told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that mistakes still happen with DNA evidence and the only way to make sure an innocent person isn’t executed is to abolish the death penalty.

The committee took no action on the bill.

Republican Rep. Mike Hopkins of Missoula is sponsoring a separate bill to abolish the death penalty, including the sentences of the two men on Montana’s death row. A hearing date has not been set.

8:30 a.m.

A Montana lawmaker wants to require prosecutors to provide indisputable biological proof that a person committed a capital crime before that person can be sentenced to death.

The House Judiciary Committee is set to hear a bill Wednesday by Democratic Rep. Brad Hamlett of Cascade that would require there be DNA or other biological proof that a judge finds conclusively establishes the defendant’s guilt before they can be sentenced to death.

Hamlett says the measure would save the state money because fewer people would be sentenced to death, creating fewer appeals and reducing court costs.

Republican Rep. Mike Hopkins of Missoula is sponsoring a separate bill to abolish the death penalty entirely, including the sentences of the two men on Montana’s death row. A hearing date has not been set.

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