Juneau delegation opposes Alaska death penalty bill

Juneau delegation opposes Alaska death penalty bill

Posted: Tuesday, February 24, 2009

House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, wants to bring the death penalty back to Alaska, but he'll have to do it over the objections of Juneau's representatives.

"The death penalty is something that's philosophically against my grain," said Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau.

Rep. Beth Kerttula feels the same way.

"It's another crime on top of the crime, I don't think the state should be participating in it," said the Juneau Democrat and House Minority Leader.

Chenault said he doesn't believe the death penalty is a deterrent to crime, but he speaks passionately about his sympathy for victims and their family members.

Kerttula said she appreciated Chenault for not arguing that imposing the death penalty was a deterrent, but doubted it would help families either.

"I don't think it brings closure to victims," she said. "I've talked to my fair share of people who've lost loved ones and I don't think this resolves the issue."

Muñoz said she was opposed to killing anyone, and would not be supporting Chenault's effort.

"I personally have a problem with taking life in any form," she said.

Kerttula and Muñoz said they doubted there was support in the House of Representatives to pass the bill, and there may not even be enough support to get it to the floor for a vote.

Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, said he would oppose reinstating the death penalty, if such a bill were to be introduced in the Senate or if the House bill makes it that far.

"I'm going to work to make sure it doesn't occur on my watch," he said.

Elton said there appears to be little interest in bringing the divisive issue to the Senate.

"We're more interested in focusing on issues that bring us together, rather than split us apart," he said.

In a meeting with reporters Monday morning, Chenault acknowledged it would be difficult to pass the bill this year, and said it may not even get out of the House Judiciary Committee.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or e-mail patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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