Update: Delaware House Rejects Legislation to Abolish Death Pena - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Update: Delaware House Rejects Legislation to Abolish Death Penalty

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Legislators meet to debate and vote on S.B. 40, which would have repealed the death penalty in Delaware. (Photo: WBOC) Legislators meet to debate and vote on S.B. 40, which would have repealed the death penalty in Delaware. (Photo: WBOC)
Advocates supporting a death penalty repeal holding a press conference outside of Legislative Hall. (Photo: WBOC) Advocates supporting a death penalty repeal holding a press conference outside of Legislative Hall. (Photo: WBOC)

DOVER, Del.- The Delaware House of Representatives voted Thursday to reject a bill that would repeal the death penalty. 

The legislation, which does not apply to inmates currently on death row, was defeated 23-16 Thursday in the House after barely clearing the Senate last year.
    
The legislation had languished in the House Judiciary Committee until last week, when the chairman, a retired police officer and opponent of the measure, agreed to release it for a vote by the full House.
    
Judiciary Committee members voted 6-5 last May not to send the bill to the full House after it narrowly cleared the Senate on an 11-to-9 vote.
    
But House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. John Mitchell, D-Elsmere, who opposes repeal, withdrew his "no" vote a week ago and signed the measure out of committee with an "unfavorable" endorsement, allowing the bill to move forward to the House vote.
    
"I have a responsibility to members of my caucus to give them the opportunity to speak ... what happens will happen," he said.

Legislative Hall was crowded with advocates on both sides of the issue. Supporters of repeal said their reasons are religious, moral and practical. 

Bryan Stevenson, a Milton native and founder of Equal Justice Initiative, testified during the House session and reacted after the vote.

"We're going to have to keep fighting. I mean, it's going to happen. I really don't think that we can continue to have the kind of death system that we have in this state. So we'll just keep fighting, and we'll be back," he said. 

There were also supporters of the death penalty. Kimberly Whaley Mascheri has a long history of advocating for the death penalty in the state of Delaware.

"My grandparents were violently murdered, my grandmother raped. As a result of that, my father and his brothers fought for Delaware and her citizens so that any future crime that happen to other families that they could have the opportunity for justice that our family never experienced," she sai

 Democratic Gov. Jack Markell has said he would sign the measure if it reached his desk.
    
Meanwhile Thursday, Delaware's Supreme Court agreed to accept and answer questions submitted by a Superior Court judge on the constitutionality of Delaware's death penalty statute in light of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings earlier this month.

There are currently 14 people on death row in Delaware, according to Chelsea Hicks, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections. She said the last person to be executed was Shannon Johnson and that there are currently no considerations regarding who is next. Many cases are in an appeals process. 

Editor's note: The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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