Monday, February 6, 2012

Testifying in Washington state

From the January 26th edition of the (Washington state) Olympian, "Sister of Rupe victim urges end to death penalty":

More than 30 years after Mitchell Rupe fatally shot Candace Hemmig in Olympia, her sister is asking state lawmakers to abolish the death penalty she says caused years of traumatic court appearances for her family.

Karil Klingbeil testified Wednesday in favor of a bill to end capital punishment in Washington. Sen. Debbie Regala, D-Tacoma, sponsored the measure, Senate Bill 6283, which had a public hearing in the Senate Judiciary committee.

Rupe was sentenced to execution two different times for fatally shooting Hemmig, 33, and another bank teller, Twila Capron, 30, at a West Olympia bank in 1981. Higher courts overturned both, and Rupe ultimately received a life sentence without parole after one juror objected to the death penalty at a third trial.

Rupe suffered from terminal liver disease, hepatitis c and cirrhosis. He died in prison in 2006 at age 51.

Klingbiel testified Wednesday that her family would have found more peace had life without parole been the most severe punishment available. She told the committee she was in favor of the death penalty for more than 30 years, but study and reflection led her to oppose it Thursday.

“What followed (the shooting) was 20 excruciating years of hearings and appeals and nonstop media attention,” Klingbeil told lawmakers. “With each appeal and each court appearance, we relived that horrible tragedy.”

Rupe made national headlines as the “man too fat to be hanged.” A federal judge ruled that hanging him would be cruel and unusual punishment, as he would likely be decapitated from his 409-pound weight.

Several years later, state lawmakers switched the primary method of capital punishment to lethal injection. At the time Rupe faced death row, prisoners who did not choose between injection and hanging faced the latter.

Regala also testified Wednesday as someone who lost a family member to violent crime. Her brother-in-law was killed in 1980, and his killer was never found.

“We want the person responsible to be identified, to be prosecuted, and to be off the streets,” Regala said. “Life without the possibility of parole provides that.”

Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, expressed concerns at the hearing that some families might feel differently.

“It denies some who would like to see a more final outcome,” Roach said.

Klingbeil acknowledged those people in an interview later Wednesday.

“There will always be some that want it, but they want it for the wrong reasons,” she said. “They want it because of their emotions, in my opinion.”

Senate Bill 6283 has not been scheduled for a committee vote.

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