The Delaware State Senate voted in favor of Senate Bill 40 by Karen Peterson, which would repeal the death penalty, Thursday. The vote barely received the required majority of 11 votes. (Roll call here)
The repeal vote saw support and opposition that defied normal lines of party, ideology, and geography, which normally are on display in state issues. Downstate Conservatives such as Senators Simpson and Lopez supported the repeal while upstate liberals such as Senators Hall-Long, Poore, and Marshall opposed it. Overall 3 Republicans crossed over to support the repeal and 4 Democrats opposed it.
Analysis–What you may not know about the dynamics of this debate
Supporters turned down amendments to keep the death penalty for law enforcement, ignoring arguments that it protects law enforcement from being targets by people who have nothing more to lose (if they are already facing life without parole, why not kill a cop to escape?), terrorism, including mass events such a bombings or acts of torture (even killing thousands or ISIS style murders), killing of a child, or killing after a rape (similar argument to the one with executing officers–person could face life so murdering the victim if there is not the threat of a substantially greater penalty is a risk since leaving the victim alive makes identification more likely).
Apparently, supporters of the repeal shared the view of Pope Francis who says that once the threat is neutralized and the person can no longer kill, there is no justification for taking their life under any circumstances. That is a reasonable moral argument. There are also those who believe the death penalty in Delaware is racially biased because 70% of those on death row killed a white person (even though 72% of the population is white) and a black person is 2 times more likely to get the death penalty for killing a white person than the other way around. The fact is that Delaware is the state most likely to execute a white person for executing a black person, 3 times more than black on black murder and almost twice as likely as white on white murder. Some also site cost as an issue. Of course the only reason costs are so high is the determined effort of the ACLU and others to toss roadblock after roadblock in the way to raise costs just to make the argument. Others have a powerful argument about the effect on those carrying out the executions. Those arguments affected the public conscious as far back as President Grover Cleveland who as a Sheriff would pull the lever himself because of the effect on his underlyings.
The debate will now go the House of Representatives where it faces an uphill battle. The speaker is a former State Trooper and proponent of the death penalty. To compensate, the Delaware Death Penalty Repeal Coalition is upping their ground game. They are seeking to hire field organizers. One is to reach out to conservatives and downstaters and the other is to reach out to minorities statewide. They are also seeking to augment the staffers with interns. Proponents such as the Police Chiefs and crime victims are making no similar efforts to rally support. They are depending upon the fact 60% or more of the public support their position. This could be a serious miscalculation. Time will tell.