Republicans in the state Senate who are pressing to reinstate capital punishment in Iowa for “child killers” are lauding U.S. Senator Charles Grassley for introducing a bill that would apply the federal death penalty in certain cases when a child is kidnapped, raped and murdered. Senator Chuck Larson, a Republican from Cedar Rapids, says Grassley’s move will “build pressure” for state Senators to act on the death penalty at the state level. “It reemphasizes that Iowans are supportive of this legislation and (the Senate) should vote on it,” Larson says. The issue surfaced last month in the state Senate after the kidnapping, rape and murder of a 10-year-old Cedar Rapids girl named Jetseta Gage. Senator Larry McKibben, a Republican from Marshalltown, says a member of Senator Grassley’s D.C. staff called him Wednesday to outline what Grassley proposes.”They said Senator Grassley has been following the debate out in Iowa,” McKibben says. “Because of the number of crimes that are being committed nationwide, he felt it was very, very important.” McKibben says he and Grassley share the opinion that the death penalty is a deterrent. Senate Co-Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, has the opposite opinion, and will stand. “I think I’ve been incredibly clear about this. I do not believe the death penalty is an effective deterrent,” Gronstal says. “I understand people’s anger. I share their anger about this crime.” Gronstal says death penalty cases cost millions to prosecute, money he says would be better spent locking up several criminals for life. “That money is better spent providing for longer prison sentences, more treatment of people (who) are eventually going to get out of prison and better tracking when they get back to the local community,” Gronstal says. “I believe we will do better protection by pursuing that.” Gronstal says Republicans are pursing a vote on reinstating capital punishment in Iowa for political reasons. Larson, the Republican from Cedar Rapids, says a recent Des Moines Register poll found 67 percent of Iowans support the death penalty. “Iowans have a right to know where their legislators stand on this important issue,” Larson says.
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