Today Montana lawmakers will debate the Senate bill that would abolish the state's death penalty. Steve Hall at the StandDown Texas Project has posted an interview he did with the bill's sponsor, Senator Dave Wanzenried. The interview contains some notable references to the power of victim opposition to the death penalty:
Q: Have you been surprised at the progress of your bill this session following several years of stalemate?
A: Montana has slowly made progress. In 2005 -- as was the case in four or five prior sessions -- the bill did make it out of committee. Last session, as a senate bill it passed the Senate and was tabled in the House Judiciary Committee. In 2009, I am hopeful that we will get it done.
Q: Which issue has swayed legislators to abolish; exonerations, cost, lack of
use, moral opposition?
A: Number one would be murder victim family members who have stepped forward in opposition to the death penalty. Second, exonerations, and third, cost.
More generally, with our country in such disarray in so many areas, legislators seem more introspective and more prone to critically examine long-time, scared institutions, including the death penalty.
Q: How has the testimony of the surviving families of murder victims who oppose capital punishment influenced legislators?
A: This in particular is a factor.