Douglas says lawmakers should reconsider death penalty

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he’d like the next session of the Legislature to debate the merits of bringing the death penalty back to Vermont for specific crimes. Douglas doesn’t oppose the death penalty, and thinks it may be an appropriate form of punishment for people convicted of killing police officers.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) On the day that a man accused of killing a Vermont State Trooper was arraigned in district court in White River Junction, Governor Jim Douglas told reporters that he thinks it would be a good idea for the General Assembly to revisit the death penalty issue next winter.

Vermont is one of 12 states that don’t have a death penalty, it was effectively abolished in the state in 1964. There have been several efforts to reinstate the death penalty in Vermont but all have failed to win legislative approval.

Although no action next year by lawmakers would affect the case of Eric Daley, the man accused of killing Sergeant Michael Johnson on Sunday, Douglas thinks it’s still an important debate for the Legislature to engage in:

(Douglas) “I’ve made it clear throughout the past year that I’m not opposed to the death penalty. Absolutely this is the kind of case that appropriately renews the discussion about the propriety of the death penalty in our state, and I think it’s one that we’re going to begin to discuss over the months ahead.”

(Kinzel) It’s unclear if the U.S. Attorney’s office will seek to prosecute the Daley case. If it does, it’s possible that federal officials will seek the death penalty in federal court. Douglas says he wants the most severe penalty handed down if Daley is convicted of killing Sergeant Johnson:

(Douglas) “I think Mr. Daley should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I don’t know what charges will ultimately be brought by the state or federal authorities but he has killed one of our state troopers he has caused a tremendous tragedy not only for the Johnson family but for the larger family of our state. So I believe that he should be dealt with severely and receive whatever maximum penalty is available.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says he will not oppose any efforts by federal prosecutors to take over this case if they want to seek the death penalty in federal court.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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