PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Lori Sitler
Phone: (302) 577-8314
Pager: (302) 247-1132
Date: July 23, 2002
NEW DEATH PENALTY BILLS SIGNED INTO LAW
(Dover, DE): Attorney General Jane Brady today announces that two significant bills preserving Delaware's death penalty were signed into law by Governor Ruth Ann Minner on Monday. Both bills were introduced as a result of United State Supreme Court decisions last month in Ring v. Arizona and Atkins v. Virginia. The new laws were written by Brady and her senior staff.
Brady commented, "I want to thank the bills' sponsors and the General Assembly for acting so promptly and appropriately in responding to the Supreme Court decisions. These laws do no less than assure that the death penalty remains an available sentence in the most heinous of homicides. The new laws assure that, in all pending capital cases, we can go forward with confidence."
Senate Bill 449 conforms Delaware's death penalty sentencing procedures to the new rule announced in Ring v. Arizona. The new law bars the Court from imposing a death sentence unless a jury first determines unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt that at least one statutory aggravating circumstance exists. S.B. 449 was sponsored by Senator Adams and Speaker Spence. Senate Bill 450 brings Delaware's death penalty into line with the Supreme Court's decision in Atkins v. Virginia. This new law bars the imposition of the death penalty upon any defendant who is found by the sentencing court to be "seriously mentally retarded" at the time of the crime. S.B. 450 was sponsored by Senator Blevins and Representative Lee.
Senator Patricia Blevins believes that, "in light of the Supreme Court decisions, it was important to quickly address Delaware's death penalty law to protect it from being eroded."
State Prosecutor Steve Wood, who testified before the General Assembly in support of the new laws, stated, "these new laws will resolve the unacceptable uncertainty surrounding capital litigation in Delaware, and they will ensure that our death penalty statute is both constitutional and just."
The new laws took effect upon signature of the Governor.