DES MOINES | A state senator will push for public hearings on the death penalty in the Iowa Senate and House of Representatives as he files legislation to bring capital punishment back to Iowa.
Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Milo, has championed the idea of reintroducing the death penalty in Iowa since the abduction and killing of Elizabeth Collins, 8, and Lyric Cook, 10, last summer in Evansdale.
Elizabeth’s parents joined Sorenson and parents of other missing and murdered children at a Capitol news conference, where the senator outlined five pieces of legislation he plans to introduce this session. Iowa abolished the death penalty in 1965.
There’s little chance of the death penalty returning this session, either, since Senate Judiciary Chairman Robb Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said the bill won’t make it through his committee.
“Just saying that it’s not open for debate, that’s not how this country was set up,” said Drew Collins, Elizabeth’s father.
Struggling to find the words, Drew tensed as he spoke.
“As a parent of a murdered child, it makes me sick that it’s not even open to debate,” he said. “One person holding us hostage is unfair, and it victimizes us one more time.”
Sorenson is introducing five pieces of legislation. The bills would:
-- Allow for the death penalty when a person commits first-degree murder and either first-degree kidnapping or first-degree sexual abuse against the same minor.
-- Require the chemical castration of people who commit serious sex crimes against victims 12 years old or younger.
-- Eliminate earned time in prison for serious sex offenses.
-- Require the electronic monitoring of sex offenders.
-- Immediately notify hunters when a missing child is reported.
“Swift justice, as well as capital justice, we gotta have it, OK?” Adonnis Hill said, smacking his hands together for emphasis as his eyes started to water. “It’s not about politics. If it was about politics, I wouldn’t be here. It’s just about being concerned and wanting to do something for a change. The change is now, not yesterday, not tomorrow and we need to get this bill passed.”
Hill’s daughter, Donnisha, was abducted from Waterloo and killed more than six years ago. He was joined by Noreen Gosch, whose son, Johnny Gosch, has been missing since 1982, and Tom and Jan Nichols, whose daughter, Lindsay, was killed in March 2012.
Each supported Sorenson’s five-point proposal and the public hearings, but it remains to be seen how the legislation will fare when it is introduced.
“There are very few people who think the death penalty is a deterrent for horrible crimes. Texas has a lot of horrible crimes, and they have the death penalty,” Iowa State University political science professor Steffen Schmidt said. “The way we do the death penalty, you might as well forget it. It’s dragged out over 10 or 15 years before it’s executed, and most people have forgotten (about the crime).”