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Death Penalty Still Being Debated in MT

March 30, 2009

Helena, MT – Innocence and money. Those are the two points for a former death row inmate who has been talking to legislators in Montana as debate continues on a proposal to scrap the death penalty in favor of life in prison without parole. Randy Steidl from Illinois was sentenced to death in 1986 for a double murder, even though he says he had proof he was not at the scene of the crime. He says it was amazing how quickly an innocent person could wind up sentenced to death in this country.

"I went from my home to death row in 97 days – scratching my head trying to figure out, how did this happen? It took me 17 plus years to get out."

The Montana House is expected to vote soon on a bill to abolish the death penalty. The state Senate has already approved the measure. Opponents say the state needs to keep the death penalty as an option for extreme cases, and some believe it deters violent crime.

Steidl says New Mexico abolished its death penalty this month because of concerns about innocent people being put to death, and because of the cost of capital punishment cases. The cost factor carries weight in Montana as the economy erodes.

"They spent 3.2 million dollars trying to execute me, when a life sentence without parole only costs a half million dollars – for the rest of their life - to keep 'em."

The Montana House is expected to vote soon on a bill to abolish the death penalty. The state Senate has already approved the measure. Opponents say the state needs to keep the death penalty as an option for extreme cases, and some believe it deters violent crime.



Deb Courson, Public News Service - MT