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Iowa Senate Committee Advances Limited Reinstatement Of Death Penalty

John Pemble/IPR
Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig.

A bill that would reinstate the death penalty for someone who kidnaps, rapes and murders a child advanced out of an Iowa Senate committee Thursday with an 8-7 vote.

Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said it is meant to address what he calls a “perverse incentive to kill children.”

“What we have is a situation where once you have kidnapped and raped a child, you have already maxed out the maximum penalty under Iowa Code of life without parole,” Schultz said. “That means there is no additional penalty if you would go ahead and kill the child.” 

Sen. Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford, used to be a sheriff’s deputy and opposes reinstating the death penalty. He said life in prison is worse punishment than the death penalty.

Kinney recalled a child murder case he worked on, for which the perpetrator is currently serving a life sentence.

“I want him to sit in there and rot for the rest of his life, thinking of what he did to that girl who I had to carry out of a trailer in a body bag,” Kinney said. “It is more painful for him to sit in that cell and think about it than for us to kill him.” 

Other Democrats said the death penalty will not deter people who are already committing heinous crimes against children from also committing murder.

The last time a death penalty bill was debated by a full chamber of the Iowa Legislature was in the 1990s.

The bill’s future this year is not certain. It has 20 Republican co-sponsors, but Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver has not said publicly if he supports it.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter