Iowa lawmakers propose reinstating death penalty

'They deserve death': Iowa lawmakers propose reinstating death penalty for people who rape and murder children
Iowa outlawed the death penalty in 1965.

Updated: 7:25 PM CST January 26, 2021

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa lawmakers proposed a bill that would allow death sentences for people convicted of murdering a child after raping them. 

It's been almost six decades since Iowa last executed a state prisoner, but a group of Republican senators feels one crime in particular merits a death sentence.

"I am someone that's not a big death penalty advocate, but, you know, I just say look at the case," Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale said. "I don't know how you could defend someone who raped and killed a child. To me, I think they deserve death because it's one of the most heinous crimes of any crime that's committed out there."

Zaun, one of 14 senators sponsoring Senate File 82, said he understands getting this legislation through both chambers and signed by the governor is an uphill climb, but feels there should be a tough penalty for anyone who rapes and murders a child. 
"I have talked to a mother of a daughter that was brutally raped and killed," Zaun said. "I think that she, as well as all the other people — families — that are out there who have had this heinous crime committed against their loved one, we owe them the opportunity to at least have the conversation."

There are several groups that have declared they're opposed to the legislation, including the ACLU of Iowa. 

"From the legal standpoint, it's just not an ethical approach," ACLU of Iowa Executive Director Mark Stringer said. "Iowa has long since settled the debate about the death penalty in our state by adopting life in prison without parole, and we feel that's the route that should be taken in these severe crimes."

A report from the ACLU found one person is exonerated after being sentenced to death for every 10 that are executed. 

"Half a century ago, Iowa had a death penalty. Let’s not go back.
Numerous studies show it does not deter crime and executes innocent people." ACLU of Iowa (@ACLUiowa) January 14, 2021

Language in the bill would allow juries to recommend a death sentence for qualified cases.

The final decision would be up to the Iowa Supreme Court because the legislation would require mandatory reviews of all death sentences.



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