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Death penalty repeal prepares for House hearing

Delaware Public Media

Those trying to repeal Delaware’s death penalty are starting early Wednesday, despite both of their top sponsors saying it will not be voted out of committee.

Before the hearing itself, Black Thought, a co-founder of the band The Roots, will be speaking and performing at Legislative Hall, along with local community leaders.

He’s the highest profile activist to speak in Delaware so far, joining former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and exonerated death row inmates who have visited in the past.

The push hasn’t swayed members of the House Judiciary Committee, which bottled up a similar bill two years ago, according to Rep. Sean Lynn (D-Dover).

“I am not optimistic that it will get out of committee, but I’m going to do my best regardless. I’m going to go in there and swing as hard as I can, aim for the stands and we’ll see what happens,” Lynn said.

He says he expects to be one vote shy of getting it to the House floor.

Many on the committee – including Democrats – have deep ties to law enforcement, which has consistently opposed any effort to repeal the death penalty.

Despite Lynn’s whip count showing the bill won’t get out of committee, he’s not out of options.

“Regardless of what happens in committee, I’ll be making a motion to suspend the rules to bring the issue to the floor as early as Thursday, so it’s coming to the floor regardless of what happens in committee," he said.

"I think that support is overwhelming.”

Former Rep. Darryl Scott tried to drum up the 21 votes needed to suspend the rules last year, but being an election year and facing pressure from the top quickly fizzled those plans.

Suspending the rules could cost Lynn political capital even if it’s successful, with House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) opposed to both the bill and efforts to bring it to the floor without committee approval.

In the past, Schwartzkopf has taken away key committee assignments from people who have opposed him in the past, like Reps. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South) and John Kowalko (D-Newark South).

The rally featuring Black Thought will start at 9 a.m. on the east side of Legislative Hall, with the hearing beginning at 11 a.m.

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