Julian Garrett. (IA Legislatue photo)

A bill to reinstate the death penalty in a limited number of cases is eligible for debate in the Iowa Senate.

The bill would make those convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering a person under the age of 18 eligible for a death sentence. Republican Senator Julian Garrett of Indianola, a retired attorney, would vote to make the death penalty an option in far more cases.

“Given how difficult it is to get a bill passed in this legislature, we’re narrowing it down as much as we possibly can,” Garrett says.

The bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 10-8 vote. Senator Janice Weiner, a Democrat from Iowa City, says it’s an international embarrassment that some U.S. states still have the death penalty. “It puts us right in line with Saudi Arabia, Iran, China and North Korea,” she said.

Other Democrats, like Senator Tony Bisignano of Des Moines said if there’s a mistake and an innocent person is put to death, there’s no reversing that. “The state should not be in the business of killing people,” Bisignano said during committee debate this afternoon.

Garrett considers the death penalty a deterrent and he said a wrongful conviction is a worthwhile trade off. “If we make a mistake now and then and, as I say, mistakes under current technology are miniscule and we can save some innocent women’s lives down the road, that’s where the trade off is,” Garrett said.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has said he could support the death penalty on moral grounds. But Republican Representatie Steven Holt of Denison considers it impractical for several reasons. The drugs to administer a lethal injection are hard to find and Holt said the cost of sentencing someone to spend the rest of their life in prison is far less than the court costs associated with appeals to a death sentence and the expense of maintaining a death row in the state’s prison system.

Radio Iowa