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Republicans on House panel deep-six bill to abolish death penalty

Posted at 4:10 PM, Feb 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-20 20:05:10-05

HELENA – Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to kill the bill to abolish the death penalty in Montana.

Without discussion, the panel voted 11-8 to kill House Bill 350, which was heard before the committee on Monday. All Republicans on the panel voted to table the measure; all eight Democrats voted to keep it alive.

Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula, the sponsor of the bill, told MTN News he has no plans to try to revive the measure.

“It was important to have the discussion (on the issue),” he said.

In testimony before the committee Monday, Hopkins said it’s time to abolish the death penalty because Montana is still spending money on current cases even though the state has been barred by a court ruling since 2015 from executing anyone.

Only two convicts are on death row in Montana. One of them, Ronald Smith, was first sentenced in 1983.

Death-penalty opponents have tried for several legislative sessions to pass a bill to abolish the penalty in Montana. A bill last made it to the House floor in 2015, but died on a 50-50 vote.