Six Republicans in the Iowa Senate have introduced a bill that would reinstate a limited form of the death penalty in Iowa. People convicted of kidnapping, rape and murder could be sentenced to death if the bill becomes law.
“Right now, you can get life for kidnapping,” says Senator Julian Garrett of Indianola, one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “Our concern, the sponsors’ concern is there’s no further penalty if you kill the victim.”
Supporters say the death penalty option in these cases might deter some attackers from murdering their victims. Similar legislation passed the Iowa House in 1995 with 54 “yes” votes, but failed the Iowa Senate by an overwhelming 39-11 vote.
Senator Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, was a member of the House in 1995. She voted against the death penalty back then and her position has not changed. Jochum suggests the outcome for the death penalty bill might change in 2017, though.
“The atmosphere here is much different than it even was 20 years ago,” Jochum says. “I think the Republican Party has gone far more to the right.”
Death by hanging was the form of capital punishment in Iowa until 1965, when the death penalty was repealed in Iowa.
In 1994, Governor Terry Branstad made reinstating the death penalty a cornerstone of his reelection campaign after the kidnapping, rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl from Grinnell. The man found guilty of kidnapping, raping and murdering Anna Marie Emery in 1994 was sentenced to life in prison.