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Lawmakers Introduce Resolution To Bring Death Penalty Back In Michigan

LANSING (WWJ) - Lawmakers in Lansing have introduced a plan to bring the death penalty back in Michigan.

On March 1, 1847, Michigan became the first English-speaking territory in the world to abolish the death penalty. In 1963, the death penalty was constitutionally banned in Michigan.

But last month, state Attorney General Bill Schuette noted that a majority of citizens across the country support the death penalty, especially when it comes to certain offenders. Now, members of the Michigan legislature are considering taking up a death penalty bill.

"Usually what happens with proposals like this is that a police officer is killed or there is a heinous crime, and then lawmakers say 'Well, we better trot out that death penalty thing again,'" said WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick. "In this case, we don't have that going on. I think this is just the case of the legislature wanting to put it in the hopper and see what happens."

Senate Joint Resolution G, which was introduced Wednesday, would permit the death penalty in first degree murder cases of a peace or corrections officer killed while in the line of duty. The controversial measure isn't likely to garner much support, Skubick said, based on previous voter opinion.

"This has been in and out of the legislative hopper a number of times over the past 10 or 20 years and each time it has failed because it takes a two-thirds vote in both the Michigan House and Senate to put this on the ballot and then the voters would have to say yes," Skubick said. "Polling data over the years has suggested that the majority of people in Michigan do not favor this but, of course, there's been no campaign to push it either."

Skubick said there's no indication that other lawmakers would back the resolution, which is sponsored by Sen. Virgil Smith (primary), Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and Sen. Mike Kowall.

"The fact that it's been introduced is one story, but the bigger story is can they compel together the votes to put it on the ballot and then, there would be an aggressive campaign for a yes or no vote," he said. "In other words, lots of hurdles to get over before this thing even moves in the state Senate."

The resolution drew a sharp rebuke from the Michigan Catholic Conference.

"The death penalty is an antiquated and inhumane method of punishment representing nothing more than retaliation and more violence," Michigan Catholic Conference President and CEO Paul Long said in a statement. "The prohibition against capital punishment in the 1963 Michigan Constitution is clear: the state has no right to decide who lives and who dies."

Long said his organization will devote its full weight "to oppose and defeat any effort to allow for state-sanctioned murder."

"For a government with the power to kill is a government with too much power," he said.

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