Legislature(1997 - 1998)

01/29/1998 01:40 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
        HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                
           JANUARY 29, 1998                                                    
               1:40 P.M.                                                       
TAPE HFC 98 - 11, Side 1                                                       
TAPE HFC 98 - 11, Side 2                                                       
TAPE HFC 98 - 12, Side 1                                                       
CALL TO ORDER                                                                  
Co-Chair Gene Therriault called the House Finance Committee                    
meeting to order at 1:40 p.m.                                                  
Co-Chair Hanley    Representative Kelly                                        
Co-Chair Therriault   Representative Kohring                                   
Representative Davies  Representative Martin                                   
Representative Davis   Representative Moses                                    
Representative Grussendorf Representative Mulder                               
Representative Foster was absent from the meeting.                             
ALSO PRESENT                                                                   
Senator Jerry Ward; Senator Lyda Green; Jim McComas,                           
Alaskans Against the Death Penalty, Juneau; Peggy Burgin,                      
Anchorage; Dale Kelly, Alaskans Against the Death Penalty,                     
Anchorage; Vicki Otte, Alaska Natives Justice Center,                          
Anchorage; Ron Reed, Juneau; Patricia Paddock, Douglas;                        
Isabel Hesson, Juneau; William Cole, Physician, Juneau;                        
Charles Campbell, Juneau; Cami Moline, Juneau; Chip Wagoner,                   
Juneau; Lizzie Berne, Douglas; Mary J. Horton, Juneau; Ellen                   
Campbell, Juneau.                                                              
The following testified via the teleconference network:                        
Stephen V. O'Connor, Anchorage; Lisa Fitzpatrick, Anchorage;                   
Jennifer Fiess, Attorney Anchorage; Rich Curtner, Anchorage;                   
Barbara Hood, Anchorage; Jennifer Rudinger, Alaska Civil                       
Liberties Union (ACLU); Barbara Brink, Alaska Public                           
Defenders Agency; Christine Davidson, Anchorage; Cari                          
Stoddard, Anchorage; Dana Lederhos, Anchorage; Leslie                          
Hiebert, Office of Public Agency; Karen Button, Anchorage;                     
Richard Heacock, Alaska Christian Conference.                                  
SB 60 "An Act providing for an advisory vote on the                            
issue of capital punishment."                                                  
SENATE BILL NO. 60                                                             
"An Act providing for an advisory vote on the issue of                         
capital punishment."                                                           
RON REED, JUNEAU testified via the teleconference network in                   
opposition to SB 60.   (Mr. Reed's full written testimony is                   
on file.)  He maintained that the State would spend half of                    
the Department of Law's current budget to obtain the first                     
execution.  He asserted that there is an inherent bias in                      
the criminal justice system.  He observed that the                             
percentage of Alaska Natives incarcerated is twice as high                     
as the percentage of Alaska Natives in the general                             
population.  He pointed out that all three of the executions                   
that took place in Juneau, prior to 1957, involved                             
minorities, despite the fact that 74 murders were committed                    
by Caucasians.  Between 1903 and 1957 three-quarters of all                    
hangings, in Alaska, were of Natives and Blacks, while                         
three-quarters of the murders were committed by Caucasians.                    
Mr. Reed maintained that capital punishment does not deter                     
crime.  He asserted that due to presumptive sentencing the                     
state of Alaska incarcerates a higher percentage of its                        
population than the national average.                                          
Mr. Reed maintained that there has not been an "explosion"                     
of crime in Alaska.  He asserted that money needed to                          
implement capital punishment would be better spent in other                    
SENATOR ROBIN TAYLOR, SPONSOR OF SB 60 spoke in support of                     
the legislation.  He observed that SB 60 would seek the                        
advice of Alaskan voters on the issue of capital punishment.                   
He emphasized that SB 60 would not impose the death penalty                    
in Alaska.  He maintained that opinion polls reflect                           
Alaskans' desire for capital punishment.  He argued that                       
life without parole is a death penalty.  He noted that a                       
March 1996 poll, conducted in Alaska, showed that 62 percent                   
of those polled favored the death penalty over life without                    
parole.  He observed that support for capital punishment                       
crossed all demographics, including location, gender, age,                     
party affiliation, employment status and length of time in                     
the community.  He stressed that Alaska has one of the                         
youngest, best educated and well read populations in the                       
Nation.  He maintained that Alaskans will cast votes based                     
on information, not emotion.  He emphasized that the cost of                   
the ballot issue would be approximately $3,000 thousand                        
Representative Davies questioned why an advisory vote would                    
be preferred over a poll.  Senator maintained that an                          
advisory vote is the most effective poll.  He observed that                    
he has sponsored or co-sponsored every capital punishment                      
bill before the legislature for the past 13 years.  He                         
pointed out that none have been enacted.  He asserted that                     
the public is ready to participate in a debate on capital                      
STEPHEN V. O'CONNOR, ANCHORAGE testified via the                               
teleconference network in opposition to SB 60.   He observed                   
that he has a BA in Criminal Justice.  He asserted that the                    
death penalty has been used in a discriminatory manner and                     
is costly in time and effort.  He pointed out that capital                     
punishment is not reversible.  He maintained that capital                      
punishment is not effective as a deterrent.  He claimed that                   
capital punishment legislation is politically motivated.                       
LISA FITZPATRICK, ANCHORAGE testified via the teleconference                   
network in opposition to SB 60.  She stressed that it is the                   
responsibility of the Legislature to determine if the death                    
penalty is an appropriate form of punishment.  She                             
maintained that an advisory vote invites a response based on                   
fear and anger.   She stressed that the public does not have                   
the information available to legislators.                                      
JENNIFER FIESS, ATTORNEY ANCHORAGE testified via the                           
teleconference network in opposition to SB 60.  She stated                     
that she worked as an attorney in New York City for 10                         
years.  New York has had the death penalty for 2 years and                     
has yet to put someone on trial.  She asserted that the                        
advisory vote promotes people's reactions based on vengeance                   
without knowledge of how capital punishment is administered.                   
She emphasized that there is a large capacity for human                        
error.  She maintained that the person on the street does                      
not understand the complexity of capital punishment.  She                      
emphasized that mercy is a component of justice                                
SENATOR JERRY WARD, spoke in support of SB 60.  He noted                       
that he was also speaking on behalf of Senator Lyda Green.                     
He maintained that Alaskans should be allowed to vote on the                   
enactment of capital punishment.  He stressed that "there is                   
no way, that someone who has committed murder, that is                         
executed, will ever murder again".  He observed that                           
execution is final.                                                            
RICH CURTNER, ATTORNEY, ANCHORAGE testified via the                            
teleconference network in opposition to SB 60.  He stated                      
that he prosecuted capital punishment cases for 10 years in                    
Ohio before he moved to Alaska.  He observed that there are                    
150 people on death row in Ohio.  He observed that there has                   
not been an execution since capital punishment was                             
implemented in Ohio.  He stressed that the cost has been                       
enormous.  He maintained that it is 6 times more expensive                     
for a death penalty case than a case involving life in                         
prison without parole.  He emphasized the high emotional                       
cost on those that implement capital punishment.                               
BARBARA HOOD, ANCHORAGE testified via the teleconference                       
network in opposition to SB 60.  She emphasized that there                     
is a high human cost.  She works with a support group for                      
victims' families, Murder Victims' Families for                                
Reconciliation.  She stated that, in many instances,                           
families urge against capital punishment.  She quoted the                      
group's founder, Marie Deans:                                                  
The death penalty is a false God promising to bring                            
justice and closure to victims' families.  There is no                         
justice for murder.  You cannot give enough time in                            
prison, and you cannot kill enough people to make up                           
for the precious, unique human life that murder takes.                         
Instead, we must put the vast resources we spend on                            
killing a small percentage of murderers into preventing                        
Ms. Hood also quoted form Celeste Dixon.  She noted that Ms.                   
Dixon was a supporter of capital punishment throughout the                     
trial of the man accused of killing her mother.  However,                      
when she saw the defendant's mother crying and learned that                    
he had been abused as a child, she couldn't stop thinking of                   
him as a person.                                                               
(Due to time considerations Ms. Hood was unable to finish                      
her testimony.  A copy of her additional remarks is                            
available on file.)                                                            
testified via the teleconference network in opposition to SB
60.  (Ms. Rudinger's written remarks are on file.) She                         
emphasized that the system is fallible.  She asserted that                     
voters should know that there are racial disparities in the                    
charging, sentencing, and imposition of the death penalty.                     
BARBARA BRINK, ALASKA PUBLIC DEFENDERS AGENCY testified via                    
the teleconference network in opposition to SB 60.  She                        
expressed surprise that such an important criminal justice                     
issue is being considered for an advisory vote.  She                           
observed that there are a lot of related factors and                           
maintained that the "big picture" is within the legislative                    
providence to decide.  She observed that death penalty cases                   
are more expensive.  She stressed that California spends $15                   
million dollars and Texas spends $2.3 million dollars per                      
CHRISTINE DAVIDSON, ANCHORAGE testified via the                                
teleconference network in opposition to SB 60.  She stressed                   
that capital punishment is expensive.   She maintained that                    
the death penalty is based on vengeance.  She suggested that                   
funding be spent on education rather than on implementing                      
capital punishment. She stressed that there is a difference                    
between vengeance and justice.                                                 
CARI STODDARD, ANCHORAGE testified via the teleconference                      
network in opposition to SB 60.   She noted that errors have                   
been made in capital punishment cases.  She cited an                           
Illinois case where a falsely convicted person was released                    
after 10 years on death row.  She emphasized that people and                   
governments make mistakes.                                                     
DANA LEDERHOS, ANCHORAGE testified via the teleconference                      
network in opposition to SB 60.   She maintained that people                   
are better than the worst thing they ever did in their life.                   
LESLIE HIEBERT, OFFICE OF PUBLIC AGENCY testified via the                      
teleconference network in opposition to SB 60.  She did not                    
think that the advisory vote would provide legislators with                    
any meaningful advice needed to make a reasoned decision on                    
the issue.   She alleged that an advisory vote would shift                     
the Legislature's responsibility.                                              
KAREN BUTTON, ANCHORAGE testified via the teleconference                       
network in opposition to SB 60.  She observed the                              
seriousness of the issue.  She stressed the need to end                        
violence, not "reenact it."                                                    
(Tape Change, HFC 98 -11, Side 2)                                              
Ms. Button acknowledged that she has not always been in                        
favor of capital punishment.  She stated that money should                     
be put toward crime prevention.                                                
RICHARD HEACOCK, ALASKA CHRISTIAN CONFERENCE testified via                     
the teleconference network in opposition to SB 60.   Mr.                       
Heacock noted that the Alaska Christian Conference adopted a                   
resolution in opposition to the death penalty (copy on                         
Senator Taylor replied to remarks by testifiers.  He                           
maintained that the 1987, Stanford study was badly flawed.                     
He observed that the authors subsequently stated that it has                   
not been proven that any of the executed defendants  were                      
proven innocent.                                                               
Senator Taylor noted that six percent of juveniles convicted                   
of murder and paroled in 1978 were arrested for murder again                   
within 6 years.                                                                
Co-Chair Therriault observed that, if SB 63 is passed, some                    
of these offenders would be waived into adult court.                           
Senator Taylor emphasized that legislation to implement                        
capital punishment has not been crafted.  He observed that                     
young offenders could be excluded.  He observed that capital                   
punishment could be implemented with a broad or narrow                         
Senator Taylor stated that in 1984, an estimated 810                           
defendants convicted of murder had committed 821 new                           
murders.  He maintained that the execution of these                            
defendants would have saved 821 lives.                                         
Senator Taylor noted that FBI crime reports revealed that in                   
1993, criminals released on parole, probation or pre-trial                     
release murdered 7,700 people.  Nine to 15 percent of those                    
on death row in 1994, had committed at least one additional                    
murder prior to the murder for which they were sentenced to                    
Senator Taylor quoted the poet Hyam Barshay:                                   
"The death penalty is a warning, just like a lighthouse                        
throwing beams out to sea.  We hear about shipwrecks,                          
but we do not hear about the ships the lighthouse                              
guides safely on their way.  We do not have proof of                           
the number of ships it saves, but we do not tear the                           
lighthouse down."                                                              
Senator Taylor argued that race of the victim or defendant                     
does not play a major role.  He stated that, according to                      
1995 NAACP Legal Defense Fund statistics, 82 percent of                        
murder victims in death penalty cases were white and 13                        
percent were black.  Of these, 47 percent of the defendants                    
were black and 38 percent were white.  He added that 56                        
percent of those executed were white and 38 percent were                       
black.  He stated that the 1981 American Sociological Review                   
concluded that there is no evidence of system wide                             
discrimination in the imposition of the death penalty beyond                   
the 1950's.                                                                    
Senator Taylor acknowledged the cost associated with capital                   
punishment cases.  He maintained that millions of dollars                      
are saved by allow defendants facing a death penalty to                        
plead for life without parole.                                                 
Senator Taylor observed that there is a big difference                         
between a vote to change the constitution and an advisory                      
Senator Taylor emphasized that there are 38 states that are                    
using capital punishment as a prosecuting tool.  He asked                      
how life in prison without benefit of parole is anything                       
other than a death sentence.                                                   
statements by Senator Taylor.  He observed that the study in                   
the Stanford Law Review was written by two assistant U.S.                      
attorneys, who were told to write a quotable piece to                          
support the death penalty.  He maintained that it was not an                   
independent finding.                                                           
Mr. McComas provided members with a report titled,                             
"Innocence and the Death Penalty", by the Subcommittee on                      
Civil and Constitutional Rights, Judiciary Committee, U.S.                     
Congress, 1993 (copy on file).  He observed that the report                    
found that there have been 48 cases of innocent individuals                    
released from death row since 1973.                                            
Mr. McComas referred to Senator Taylor's statement that 810                    
defendants convicted of murder had committed 821 new                           
murders.  He clarified that these statistics were based on a                   
letter to the editors of the Stanford Law Review from                          
someone who studied 32,000 thousand people convicted of                        
homicide.  He noted that, according to these statistics, 1                     
percent of people convicted of homicide commit another                         
homicide.   He observed that not all of the 810 offenders                      
were "death eligible."   He noted that the U.S. Supreme                        
Court has held that aggravated first-degree murder is the                      
only offense that can carry a death sentence.                                  
Mr. McComas stressed that the voters may have different                        
ideas about what capital punishment legislation would be                       
enacted.  He pointed out that the Senator Taylor has                           
sponsored substantive death legislation.                                       
Mr. McComas maintained that 78 percent of Alaskans think                       
that first-degree murders will be released within 20 years.                    
He asserted that there has not been a case in the state of                     
Alaska where a person convicted of first-degree murder was                     
released and subsequently committed an additional murder.                      
He stated that no person convicted of first degree murder in                   
the state of Alaska has ever killed another inmate or prison                   
Mr. McComas emphasized that the money used to implement the                    
death penalty could be spent on child protection and alcohol                   
intervention.  He observed that it is an emotionally charged                   
issue that divides communities.   He maintained that the                       
odds of being sentenced to death are four times greater if a                   
white person is killed than if a black person is killed.                       
PEGGY BURGIN, ANCHORAGE testified in opposition to SB 60.                      
Her daughter was murdered in Anchorage.   She stated that                      
she did not want to be responsible for someone else's death.                   
She emphasized the need for prevention.                                        
testified in opposition to SB 60.  She asserted that many                      
Alaskans are uninformed in regards to capital punishment.                      
She did not think that a ballot question would provide                         
sufficient information.   She noted that it would take                         
millions to enact the legislation due to federal safeguards                    
and guidelines.  She urged that the estimated $50 million                      
dollars needed to implement capital punishment legislation                     
be used to support children.                                                   
testified in opposition to SB 60.   She observed that the                      
Alaska Native Justice Center, the Alaska Federation of                         
Natives, and the Alaska Intertribal Councils unanimously                       
oppose the reinstatement of capital punishment.  She                           
asserted that Alaskans do not have enough information to                       
make a decision.  She suggested that money that would be                       
spent on implementing the death penalty be spent on things                     
that will benefit children.                                                    
ISABEL HESSON, JUNEAU testified in opposition to SB 60. She                    
maintained that it is wrong to take a life.                                    
WILLIAM COLE, PHYSICIAN, JUNEAU testified in opposition to                     
SB 60.  He stressed that the death penalty is administered                     
with prejudiced against the poor and minorities.  He                           
emphasized that it is a great responsibility to kill                           
someone.  He maintained that unless an individual is willing                   
to have the matter of life and death in their personal                         
hands, they should not vote for the death penalty.                             
CAMI MOLINE, JUNEAU testified in opposition to SB 60.  She                     
stressed the difficulty of teaching children to be                             
nonviolent.  She maintained that capital punishment is at                      
its core violent.  She asserted that the ballot question                       
would exploit people that do not know the facts.  She                          
alleged that capital punishment  has not been proven to                        
deter violent crime, that it costs millions of dollars to                      
put one prisoner to death, and that those that are chosen to                   
die are poor men of color.  She emphasized that an execution                   
will not take away the family's grief.                                         
CHARLES CAMPBELL, JUNEAU testified in opposition to SB 60.                     
He stated that a person that murders a white person is                         
almost 5 times as likely to be executed than someone who                       
murders a black person.  He observed that the American Bar                     
Association passed a resolution calling for a moratorium in                    
the use of the death penalty.  He noted that their decision                    
was based on concerns that poor offenders are inadequately                     
represented.  He observed that the federal government                          
eliminated all funding for death penalty legal resource                        
centers across the country.  He maintained that there will                     
always be outrageous inequities in the administration of                       
capital punishment.  He asserted that capital punishment is                    
"absurdly expensive, has no value as a deterrent and is                        
destructive in other ways."  He observed that Russia,                          
Ukraine and South Africa have suspended the death penalty.                     
CHIP WAGONER, JUNEAU testified in opposition to SB 60.  He                     
maintained that "God is watching us."  He maintained that                      
the bar of civilization and justice has been raised.  He                       
asserted that capital punishment would lower the bar.  He                      
asked why there should be an advisory vote if the answer is                    
already known.  He argued that an advisory vote is not the                     
ultimate poll.  He stated that the question is simplistic.                     
He asserted that a neutral poll would give better answers                      
than an advisory vote.  He maintained that a ballot question                   
places a burden on members of the faith community that would                   
fight against capital punishment.  He noted that he is a                       
former chairman of the Southeast Republicans.  He emphasized                   
the intensity of the issue.                                                    
LIZZIE BERNE, DOUGLAS testified on SB 60.  She referred to                     
HCS CSSB 60 (JUD).  She observed that the committee                            
substitute would require voters to consider how much it                        
costs to execute someone versus what it would cost to let                      
them live their life in prison.  She maintained that the                       
committee substitute indicates that certain human lives have                   
a monetary value.  She observed that Senator Taylor stated                     
that people should use information not emotions to make                        
their decision.  She emphasized that emotions make us human.                   
MARY J. HORTON, Juneau testified in opposition to SB 60.                       
She stated that she respects the lives of those that are                       
unborn and those that are born.  She maintained that life                      
without parole allows the offender an opportunity to change.                   
She stressed that there are more important things to spend                     
the money and time on.                                                         
ELLEN CAMPBELL, JUNEAU testified in opposition to SB 60.                       
She stated that she has been a prison volunteer.  She noted                    
the difficult choice facing legislators.  She stressed that                    
legislators have an opportunity to stand for that, which is                    
SB 60 was HELD in Committee for further consideration.                         
The meeting adjourned at 3:36 p.m.                                             
House Finance Committee 9 1/29/98                                              

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