2020 PREVIEW: Sen. Garrett will continue work on restoring death penalty in Iowa in cases of kidnapping, rape and murder of a minor

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State Sen. Julian Garrett (R-Warren) would like to see a very limited use of the death penalty restored in Iowa. The bill hasn’t been passed in the Senate yet, but Garrett thinks there is more and more support for it.

Currently, Iowa law states that if you kidnap and rape a minor, you will receive life in prison. It also states that if you kidnap, rape and murder a child, you will receive life in prison.

This bill would make someone who is convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering a minor subject to the death penalty.

“There’s almost an incentive to kill the victim to silence the witness,” Garrett said of current law. “It’s just never seemed right to me. It seems like there should be an additional penalty if you murder your victim. That’s what this bill does and it is very limited to that very narrow circumstance.”

Garrett has worked on it for years and is on the subcommittee working on the bill now.

Not a single lobbying group expressed support for the bill after it was filed in 2019. However, it isn’t the first time a bill Garrett supports didn’t receive much support from lobbyists.

“The people who come to the subcommittees are the lobbyists — the ACLU types and people like that,” Garrett said. “I have had that with the sanctuary bill that we did. It was kind of a similar deal — all of the lobbyists who registered registered against it pretty much.”

During debate on the sanctuary cities and counties bill, Garrett said he told people that the general public supported the bill.

“And that’s what I would say about the death penalty,” he said. “Every poll that I have seen shows very significant majority support for restoring, at least in some fashion. Even the Des Moines Register polls have shown that.

“There’s a significant majority of the general public that supports it, so I’m happy to listen and work with them rather than the lobbyists who come along and testify at the subcommittee hearings and all of that sort of stuff.”

The bill passed through committee on a narrow 8-7 vote. All five Democrats (Kevin Kinney, Tony Bisignano, Janet Petersen, Rob Hogg and Rich Taylor) on the Senate Judiciary committee opposed the bill, along with Republican Senators Amy Sinclair and Zach Nunn.

“I’m going to make a big effort to get it passed out of judiciary,” Garrett said. “We just happened to have a vote or two where we didn’t have a majority for it last year, but I’m hopeful that we can get it done. (Senator) Brad (Zaun) supports it, so he and I are both going to be supporting it. And like I said, I’m on the subcommittee, so I’m going to make a real effort to get it out of judiciary. I think if we get a vote on the floor we can pass it.”

Should the Senate pass the bill, Garrett said he isn’t sure what the House will do. He said there may be a few Democrats in the House who would support the measure, but he is pretty confident there wouldn’t be many. With a 53-47 Republican majority, it leaves little room for defections.

However, he isn’t going to let the possibility that the House does nothing with the bill stop him from trying. If those concerns were followed, the judicial reform bill and the sanctuary cities and counties bill never would have become law, he said.

“You never know,” he said. “It’s a matter of common sense and some judgement. Some of them you can be pretty confident you won’t get passed in the House. But if you’re anywhere close, then my opinion is it’s worth the effort because you just never know. You may be able to swing the handful of votes that you may need at some point along the way. If it’s a good bill, I’m sure willing to put time into it.”

You can view the Senate subcommittee on the bill from 2019 here:

A bill to reinstate the death penalty.

Posted by The Iowa Standard on Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Jacob Hall

Author: Jacob Hall