Legislature(1995 - 1996)

05/03/1996 03:30 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  SENATE BILL 52                                                               
       "An  Act  authorizing  capital punishment,  classifying                 
       murder  in the first  degree as  a capital  felony, and                 
       establishing   sentencing   procedures    for   capital                 
       felonies; authorizing  an advisory vote  on instituting                 
       capital  punishment;  and  providing for  an  effective                 
  OFFICE OF PUBLIC ADVOCACY, ANCHORAGE, spoke in opposition to                 
  the proposed legislation.  He pointed  out that costs do not                 
  appear to be attached  to the proposal.  Mr.  McGee stressed                 
  that    implementing    the   death    penalty    would   be                 
  "astronomically"  costly and  that execution  would be  many                 
  times more  expensive than  life in  prison without  parole.                 
  The legislation will impose indirect  costs on every citizen                 
  who  attempts  to  bring  their  case  before  an  impartial                 
  Mr.  McGee  continued,  the  defense  and  prosecution costs                 
  estimated for the first four years would alone amount to $18                 
  million  dollars.   He urged the  Committee to  consider the                 
  costs  associated  on  any bill  associated  with  the death                 
  penalty.  Representative Martin agreed that voters should be                 
  informed regarding the costs involved.                                       
  legislation as  passage would  seriously  increase the  work                 
  load for all prosecuting attorneys and it  would become more                 
  difficult to  obtain the  cooperation  of witnesses.   If  a                 
  person knows that when they cooperate with the government as                 
  a  witness, and  that  someone they  care  about could  face                 
  execution,  they  are more  hesitant  to provide  the needed                 
  Ms. Lembo  continued, it  will be  more difficult to  obtain                 
  convictions in homicide cases.   The standard of proof being                 
  "beyond a reasonable  doubt" would remain legally  the same.                 
  Both  practically and  humanly,    a  person would  be  more                 
  reticent to loath someone to death unless they are convinced                 
  without a "shadow of a doubt".                                               
  Ms. Lembo  concluded, she feared  that there would  be court                 
  case  capital rulings which  will make it  more difficult to                 
  obtain a court  conviction in other kinds of criminal cases,                 
  and judges will become  more careful in capital cases.  In a                 
  judgement call, judges  will tend to  error in favor of  the                 
  defense when a human life is at stake.                                       
  She  informed  members  that  there  is little  scrutiny  on                 
  appeals  or  curatorial  attacks in  other  case convictions                 
  when sentencing to life without parole.                                      
  Ms. Lembo pointed out that the bill as written does not have                 
  a fiscal note  attached.  This is a  very complex matter and                 
  will  involve increased  expenses for the  defense agencies,                 
  the  Department of  Corrections and the  Court System.   She                 
  stressed that  each agency should  be required to  provide a                 
  meaningful  fiscal note.   Representative Martin requested a                 
  faxed copy of Ms. Lembo's testimony.                                         
  PRACTIONER- CRIMINAL DEFENSE, ANCHORAGE, spoke in opposition                 
  to  the death penalty.  He  addressed the impact to the poor                 
  and the minorities.   Our criminal justice  system continues                 
  to have a number of fallacies in adequately representing the                 
  poor.   Currently, the Legislature  is unable to  fully fund                 
  the public defender and public  advocacy agencies.  He urged                 
  the Committee not to pass the proposed legislation.                          
  spoke  against  the  proposed  legislation.    She  provided                 
  Committee members with a brief  history of the death penalty                 
  in  the  State of  Alaska.    There were  three  hangings in                 
  Fairbanks between  1900 -  1957.   Three  hanging also  took                 
  place in Juneau during a ten year period.                                    
  The history of Alaska  has shown that an ill advised vote by                 
  "uninformed"  people  will not  reflect  the way  those same                 
  people will feel ten years later.  At that time it  would be                 
  too late for the decision to be reversed.                                    
  spoke against  passage of  SB 52.   He  had read  an article                 
  written   in    February,    1995,   by    a   well    known                 
  attorney/prosecutor  in New  York, Robert  Martinthaw.   Mr.                 
  Martinthaw spoke about the death penalty  and how it hinders                 
  the fight  against crime.   To  date, 350  people have  been                 
  wrongfully accused and convicted of murder.                                  
  PRIVATE PRACTICE, ANCHORAGE,  spoke in opposition to  SB 52.                 
  She stressed  that an  advisory  vote on  the death  penalty                 
  would  not be  a good  idea.   When  people  vote on  ballot                 
  questions,  they vote  on limited  information and  emotion.                 
  Legislators are chosen  representatives for the  people, and                 
  are  responsible to  analysis  information regarding  voters                 
  She  pointed out  that we like  to think  that we live  in a                 
  civilized  society,   although,  no  other   modern  western                 
  civilized country supports the  intentional killing of other                 
  human  beings by  the state.   Ms. Orlansky  urged Committee                 
  members to take a stance to support the dignity and sanctity                 
  of human life  and vote  against the  bill.   Representative                 
  Martin agreed.                                                               
  SENATOR  ROBIN  TAYLOR  questioned  what  the  fear  was  in                 
  allowing Alaskans to  express an  opinion at the  poll.   He                 
  suggested that  the  question was  a  simple one,  and  that                 
  Alaskans  should  be given  the  opportunity to  voice their                 
  opinion.  He emphasized that voters  should not be kept from                 
  expressing   their  opinions   because  of   someone  else's                 
  personal,  philosophical  or  theological  points  of  view.                 
  Senator  Taylor referenced a poll that  had been provided to                 
  the Senate Judicial Committee.                                               
  Representative Martin  asked  who had  requested  the  poll.                 
  Senator Taylor replied  that the pollster provided  the poll                 
  independently and then  sent the result  to him on his  own.                 
  The poll had not  been requested.  This was a statewide poll                 
  taken involving an interview of  500 people.  Senator Taylor                 
  interjected that the  people of Alaska  have not been  heard                 
  from on the issue.                                                           
  Representative Martin questioned the costs involved with the                 
  proposed legislation.   Senator Taylor  responded that there                 
  was no way to  project the costs.  He suggested,  an attempt                 
  to ascertain the  savings associated with the  change, would                 
  be equal to  the cost of the  trial.  He concluded  that the                 
  only cost incurred with passage  of the legislation would be                 
  the cost in placing  the measure on the ballot,  which would                 
  amount to $2 thousand dollars.                                               
  Representative  Martin  asked  how   many  people  would  be                 
  eligible for the  death sentence at  this time, it the  bill                 
  should pass.   Senator  Taylor explained  that the  November                 
  vote would only be an advisory vote to the Legislature as to                 
  whether or not to implement the action.  No one already with                 
  a  conviction  and   judgement  would  be  subject   to  the                 
  sentencing.    He   reiterated  that   there  would  be   no                 
  retroactivity to the death penalty.                                          
  Representative Martin inquired why this legislation had been                 
  proposed as a bill instead of  a resolution.  Senator Taylor                 
  stated that it  was a bill  in order to accomplish  the full                 
  purpose of implementing a death penalty within the State  of                 
  Alaska.  Representative Martin asked if Senator Taylor would                 
  object  if  the  legislation was  changed  to  a resolution.                 
  Senator Taylor noted that he would  not support that motion.                 
  Representative  Therriault  agreed  that   resolutions  were                 
  usually incorporated for  motions as proposed.   He asked if                 
  putting the question  on the  ballot would be  subject to  a                 
  veto.    Senator  Taylor  replied  that  he  did  not  know.                 
  Representative Therriault  voiced concern with  the finality                 
  of execution  given the number  of mistaken cases.   Senator                 
  Taylor agreed that mistakes happen but  he believed that the                 
  United  States has the finest judicial  system in the world.                 
  He added,  people  are killed  all  the time  in  accidents.                 
  People  do  not expect  perfection  out of  any institutions                 
  within this country.                                                         
  Representative Kohring voiced his support of the legislation                 
  and noted that he wanted to cross-sponsor the bill.                          
  Representative  Navarre  countered  Representative  Kohring,                 
  speaking  in support  of  the current  judicial system.   He                 
  acknowledged that  SB  158  would  be  much  worse  for  the                 
  criminal  victims  throughout  the  State.    Representative                 
  Navarre emphasized that innocent people  will die because of                 
  mistakes or because the judicial system is weighted in favor                 
  of  the wealthy.   He agreed  that the legal  system in this                 
  country is  the best  in the  world, and  that is because  a                 
  person  has the  presumption  of innocence,  a  right to  an                 
  attorney and the right to an appeal process.  In most cases,                 
  it will be the poor that the State will have to  pay for the                 
  prosecution and  the defensive  all the way  to the  Supreme                 
  Court.   He maintained  that the  status quo  would be  more                 
  financially sound.                                                           
  (Tape Change, HFC 96-160, Side 2).                                           
  Senator  Taylor responded  that  living  in  a  correctional                 
  facility for the  "rest of  ones natural life"  was a  death                 
  sentence.  He  could not  understand a philosophical  belief                 
  system which  could  think  that  would  be  a  more  humane                 
  treatment  than to execute that  person.  He emphasized that                 
  both sentences result  in the  termination of that  person's                 
  life;  although,  one  would  take  longer than  the  other.                 
  Senator Taylor stated that it becomes a choice whether  that                 
  person deserves the  right to  continue to utilize  services                 
  and receive benefits.  He elaborated that those benefits and                 
  services  should  be  made  available  to  other  productive                 
  members in society.                                                          
  Representative  Navarre  pointed out  that  there  have been                 
  cases in which "new" evidence was brought forth and innocent                 
  people were set  free.  Many  people are beat by  the system                 
  and he concluded that  the death penalty has no  ability for                 
  PENALTY,  ANCHORAGE, spoke against SB 158.   He pleaded that                 
  the Committee consider the voice of  rural Alaska.  He noted                 
  the  late  hour  of  the  meeting  and  the  fact  that  the                 
  Legislative Information  Offices (LIO) across the  State had                 
  closed  except  in  Anchorage.   Mr.  McComas  stressed that                 
  information from rural Alaska is critical because 75% of the                 
  people executed  have been and  will continue to  be Native.                 
  He interjected  that 25% of  the people executed  were white                 
  even though white people committed 75% of the crimes.  Every                 
  Native organization  has  strongly  denounced  the  proposed                 
  Mr. McComas addressed Senator Taylor's  intent.  He stressed                 
  that the  sponsor  was playing  a  political game  and  that                 
  peoples lives are at  stake.  He thought that it was Senator                 
  Taylor's   intention   to   have  the   Governor   veto  the                 
  legislation.  Mr. McComas believed  if Senator Taylor really                 
  had  wanted  to  know what  people  thought,  he would  have                 
  proposed the idea as a resolution.  The legislation's intent                 
  would  be  to force  a  veto  in  order  that  it  could  be                 
  campaigned  against  in  the  fall  election.   Mr.  McComas                 
  objected to "politics" being played  with issues of life and                 
  He continued, there should not be an advisory vote until the                 
  public is adequately  educated regarding  the concern.   The                 
  volunteers  for  Alaskans  Against the  Death  Penalty  is a                 
  volunteer   organization  and   can  not   afford   such  an                 
  undertaking.     Legislators  have  the   responsibility  to                 
  debating important issues.  Mr. McComas noted that there has                 
  been no debate  on the death  penalty within either Body  of                 
  the Legislature.   He informed  Committee members that  most                 
  people (voters) think  that it  would cost more  to house  a                 
  criminal for life in prison than the death penalty.  That is                 
  a misconception!   He  advised that  there are  thirty-seven                 
  states with the death  penalty in tact, and for  the sponsor                 
  to insinuate that "we  do not know the costs" is a lie.  The                 
  attorney general's estimate for each execution will cost the                 
  State $5 million dollars.   Mr. McComas pointed out  that $5                 
  million  dollars is  one  half of  the  Department of  Law's                 
  budget for an entire  year.  States that are  going bankrupt                 
  because of enforcing the  death penalty.  It costs  too much                 
  Mr.  McComas continued,  popular  opinion is  totally wrong.                 
  People   were  asked  how long  someone convicted  of murder                 
  would be sentenced.  He noted  that 78% of Alaskans believed                 
  it would be 20  years or less; those people are  afraid of a                 
  crime risk repeat which could not  happen.  Under the Alaska                 
  Statutes, anyone  convicted of  a first  degree murder  must                 
  serve twenty years  without "good time" and  without parole.                 
  No  one is  released.    The  average  first  degree  murder                 
  sentence,  according  to  the Department  of  Law,  is 80-90                 
  years.  In those cases that  could be death eligible, parole                 
  is  restricted.  Mr. McComas summarized,  there is no public                 
  safety risk which the death penalty can address.                             
  He continued, the question proposed in  SB 52 is slanted and                 
  inaccurate.  Mr. McComas spoke  to the "tolerance" that  has                 
  existed  in the State  of Alaska.   If the  death penalty is                 
  ratified, the values of  tolerance will decimate.  He  spoke                 
  to the mean  spirited intent  of the legislation's  sponsor.                 
  He urged  Committee members  to further  consider the  death                 
  Capital punishment  has been  struck from  the law of  every                 
  western industrialized nation  except America.  It  has been                 
  struck from the law of the Soviet Union and Africa.  Yet, in                 
  the  land  of  liberty,  a  sponsor  schemes  to  provide  a                 
  gubernatorial veto for the purpose  of campaigning to create                 
  the  false  appearance of  an  uninformed public  mandate in                 
  order that they can resume for first time in 46 years, which                 
  Alaskans are worthy of life.                                                 
  In  defense  of  Representative  Martin  being  cut  off  by                 
  Representative Mulder, Representative Navarre  stressed that                 
  it is  the Legislature's responsibility to  provide adequate                 
  understanding of such complex issues as being presented.                     
  spoke against the  proposed legislation.   She compared  the                 
  Legislature's intent not  to place the North Star  Oil lease                 
  legislation  out for public vote,  whereas, at the same time                 
  considering a vote on placing human resources out for public                 
  opinion.  The duty of legislators is to protect life.                        
  COMMUNITY  - QUAKERS,  ANCHORAGE, stated  that  Quakers have                 
  always been against  the death penalty  and are against  the                 
  bill.   Quakers uphold the sanctity  of all life.   "That of                 
  God" exists in  each person.   She concluded that the  State                 
  can not emulate  the person lost  by taking another  persons                 
  ANCHORAGE, spoke in opposition to the  proposed legislation.                 
  He  believed  that  the  proposal was  being  fuelled  by  a                 
  misconception regarding the length of prison sentences.  The                 
  death penalty will not  save money.  He summarized  that the                 
  death penalty is  "racist"; capital punishment means  if you                 
  don't have the "capital", you get the "punishment".                          
  PUBLIC  DEFENDER,  DEPARTMENT  OF   LAW,  ANCHORAGE,  voiced                 
  opposition to SB 52.   She advised that voters  are ignorant                 
  regarding the  issue and  that the  House Finance  Committee                 
  members are responsible for weighing the monetary conditions                 
  of the  legislation.  Voters  do not  have that  information                 
  available to them.  No agency affected by the death penalty,                 
  supports the death penalty.                                                  
  Ms. Wilkas spoke to the moral  costs wrapped up in the death                 
  penalty.    There  does  exist  a racial  disparity  impact.                 
  Innocent people  will be killed.   She explained  that there                 
  are strong  moral implications  of the  death penalty  bill.                 
  The decision should be  made by people who are  educated and                 
  informed.  She  urged Committee  members to vote  no on  the                 
  death penalty.                                                               
  spoke against  the proposed  legislation.   She pointed  out                 
  that  almost  all religious  affiliations  oppose  the death                 
  penalty and  noted that all  the testimony had  been against                 
  passage of the bill.                                                         
  testified   against  of  SB  52.    He  suggested  that  the                 
  legislation  should  require  careful  study;  matters  this                 
  important should  not be rushed  through the last  couple of                 
  nights.    He  reiterated  the  high costs  associated  with                 
  implementing the death penalty.                                              
  CORRECTIONS,  SELF,  JUNEAU,  spoke   against  the  proposed                 
  legislation.  He corrected Senator Taylor's misconception of                 
  life in a  prison cell as "death".  He agreed that it is not                 
  much of  a life,  but an  overwhelming majority of  "lifers"                 
  make a "life" for themselves somehow in it.  They often have                 
  jobs at  industries  within the  prison and  are capable  of                 
  sending  money  home  to  their  families  or  try  to cover                 
  restitution costs associated with their crime.                               
  Mr.  Campbell  pointed  out  that  the Legislature  is  more                 
  informed  than  voters  regarding  the  issues.   The  death                 
  penalty is far  more costly than  life in imprisonment.   He                 
  stressed  that it  is not fair  to put  the question  to the                 
  voters,  when  legislators  know  they  will  be  voting  on                 
  misinformation.    He stated  that would  be inappropriately                 
  using the electorate.                                                        
  In  response   to  Representative  Martin's   question,  Mr.                 
  Campbell  indicated  that  there  are  about  three thousand                 
  people on death  row today.   Death row  continues to  grow;                 
  there is no way  that the number of  persons added could  be                 
  executed.   The average time  between the death sentence and                 
  the execution is nine years.                                                 
  (Tape Change, HFC 96-161, Side 1)                                            
  BARBARA BRINK, PUBLIC DEFENDER,  ANCHORAGE testified via the                 
  teleconference network in opposition to SB 52.  She stressed                 
  that the death penalty  is a complicated issue.   She agreed                 
  that there is a costly appeal  process.  She emphasized that                 
  there is a  separate sentencing trial.   She noted that  the                 
  cost of maintaining an inmate on  death roll is greater than                 
  keeping an inmate in the general population.  She noted that                 
  in the state of California it  costs $15 million dollars per                 
  execution.  She gave examples of costs in other states.  She                 
  maintained  that  the  cost will  be  significant  enough to                 
  require taxes.  She  asked what programs will be  reduced to                 
  pay for the cost of the death penalty.                                       
  BARBARA  HOOD,  ANCHORAGE testified  via  the teleconference                 
  network in opposition to  SB 52.  She maintained  that there                 
  is no constituency for the legislation.  She emphasized that                 
  vengeance is a terrible  trait.  She alleged that  the power                 
  to take human life is a power no government should have.                     
  ADMINISTRATION testified  via the teleconference  network in                 
  opposition to SB 52.   He emphasized that the  death penalty                 
  is  not  a simple  issue.    He  acknowledged  citizens  are                 
  concerned   regarding  crime  in   their  communities.    He                 
  maintained that the  perception of a  yes vote on the  death                 
  penalty is that  public safety  will be helped.   He  argued                 
  that studies  demonstrate that  the death  penalty does  not                 
  lessen crime.   He noted  that the cost  of defending  seven                 
  death  penalty  cases would  be  approximately  $1.5 million                 
  dollars.   He questioned where  the funding will  come from.                 
  He emphasized that the money could  be better spent on other                 
  public safety items.  He stressed  that 38 other states have                 
  shown that there  is no savings  and that the death  penalty                 
  does not deter crime.   He noted that rural  committees have                 
  not been heard  from on the  legislation.  He observed  that                 
  rural communities will be the most affected.                                 
  REBECCA DAVIS,  FAIRBANKS testified  via the  teleconference                 
  network in opposition  to SB 52.   She maintained that  many                 
  innocent people  have been  executed in  the United  States.                 
  She  alleged   that  more   innocent  people,   particularly                 
  minorities, will be kill.  She emphasized the fiscal cost.                   
  via the teleconference network  in opposition to SB 52.   He                 
  maintained that it  is inconsistent to be  anti-abortion and                 
  pro-death penalty.   He emphasized that  the death does  not                 
  deter crime.                                                                 
  testified  in  opposition  to SB  52.    He  noted that  the                 
  Administration opposes SB  52 because  it is too  expensive.                 
  He estimated that the  cost per trial would be  $3.5 million                 
  dollars or  greater.   He stressed  that  the death  penalty                 
  skews  the case  law related  to criminal  prosecution.   He                 
  noted  that  capital  punishment  is  not  reversible.    He                 
  observed that capital punishment has a discriminatory impact                 
  on  minority members.  He added that capital punishment does                 
  not deter crime.  The death penalty was repealed in 1957.                    
  Mr Guaneli stressed that the Legislature is the proper forum                 
  for discussion of the  issue.  He observed that  an advisory                 
  vote is a  snap shot of public opinion in one point in time.                 
  He maintained that the advisory vote  is likely to be affect                 
  by the most  recent news headline.  He emphasized that it is                 
  a complicated issue that should not  be resolved by a yes or                 
  no vote.   He noted that  the legislation  would need to  be                 
  amended  to  include   a  reference  to  the   Alaska  State                 
  In  response  to  a question  by  Representative  Brown, Mr.                 
  Guaneli  observed  that  the  cost  of  instituting  capital                 
  punishment is difficult.  He noted that the costs are spread                 
  over a number of years.  Trial and investigation costs occur                 
  early.   Appeals at  the state  and federal  level would  be                 
  extended to a number of years.                                               
  Representative  Parnell noted that  the Department  of Law's                 
  fiscal note reflects the belief that an affirmative advisory                 
  vote would result in the institution of the death penalty.                   
  opposition  to SB 52.   She noted  that the  addition of the                 
  fiscal  notes reflect a cost of  $5.0 million dollars before                 
  the first execution takes  place.  She observed that  it has                 
  been difficult  to testify  in regards  to the  legislation.                 
  She  gave  examples of  hearings  in Senate  Judiciary where                 
  individuals  were   unable  to   testify.     She  recounted                 
  experiences as  a public defender in Ketchikan.   She stated                 
  that she had a client convicted  that she knew was innocent.                 
  The person's conviction  was later  reversed.  She  observed                 
  that as  a public  defender in  Kotzebue she  had an  annual                 
  caseload of 225 cases.  She  alleged that the justice system                 
  in  rural Alaska  will be  overwhelmed.   She  observed that                 
  since 1970, 59 innocent people have been released from death                 
  Representative Kohring spoke in support of  SB 52.  He MOVED                 
  to  report CSSB  52 (JUD)  out of Committee  with individual                 
  recommendations  and  with  the accompanying  fiscal  notes.                 
  Representative Martin OBJECTED.   He MOVED to TABLE  CSSB 52                 
  (JUD).   Representative Kohring OBJECTED.   A roll call vote                 
  was taken on the MOTION to Table SB 52.                                      
  IN FAVOR: Martin, Navarre, Therriault, Brown                                 
  OPPOSED:  Mulder,  Parnell,  Grussendorf,   Kelly,  Kohring,                 
  Co-Chair Foster was absent for the vote.                                     
  The MOTION FAILED (4-6).                                                     
  Representative  Martin  maintained  that  the advisory  vote                 
  should be established through a resolution.  Co-Chair Hanley                 
  explained that the legislation was in order.                                 
  A roll call vote was taken  on the MOTION to report CSSB  52                 
  (JUD) from Committee.                                                        
  IN FAVOR: Mulder,  Parnell,  Grussendorf,   Kelly,  Kohring,                 
  OPPOSED:  Navarre, Therriault, Brown, Martin                                 
  Co-Chair Foster was absent from the vote.                                    
  The MOTION PASSED (6-4).                                                     
  Representative  Martin  MOVED  to  RESCIND  the  Committee's                 
  action  in  reporting  CSSB  52   (JUD)  out  of  Committee.                 
  Representative Kohring  OBJECTED.   He spoke  in support  of                 
  capital punishment.  He WITHDREW his objection.                              
  A  roll call vote  was taken on  the MOTION to  move CSSB 52                 
  (JUD) out of Committee.                                                      
  IN FAVOR: Parnell, Grussendorf, Kelly, Kohring, Hanley                       
  OPPOSED:  Navarre, Therriault, Brown, Martin                                 
  Co-Chair  Foster and Representative  Mulder were  absent for                 
  the vote.                                                                    
  The MOTION FAILED (5-4).                                                     
  CSSB 54 (JUD) FAILED to pass from Committee.                                 
  SENATE BILL NO. 191                                                          
       An  Act   relating  to  election   campaigns,  election                 
       campaign  financing,  the oversight  and  regulation of                 
       election  campaigns   by  the  Alaska   Public  Offices                 
       Commission, the activities of lobbyists  that relate to                 
       election campaigns,  and the definitions of offenses of                 
       campaign  misconduct; and  providing  for an  effective                 
  (Tape Change, HFC 96-161, Side 2)                                            

Document Name Date/Time Subjects