ATLANTA — A week before the scheduled execution of a Winder woman charged with arranging her husband’s murder, a representative of a national conservative group was at the Capitol Thursday calling for the end of the death penalty.
However, Republican leaders discounted any possibility of capital punishment’s repeal in Georgia soon.
Kelly Gissendaner is slated for lethal injection at the state prison in Jackson for the 1997 murder of her husband Douglas. She is the only woman on Georgia’s death row and would be the first female the state has executed since 1945.
She would also be the last if Marc Hyden is persuasive.
A veteran Republican political operative and former staffer for the National Rifle Association, Hyden is the advocacy coordinator for the New York-based Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. He argues it’s expensive, error-prone and ineffective as a deterrent.
“The way the death penalty is run should offend those of us who are concerned about innocent life,” he told a group of conservative lobbyists who invited him to speak to their informal, weekly gathering.
He said conservatives who have little faith in the government to manage healthcare, education or even postal deliveries should be just as skeptical about allowing it to administer irreversible punishment.
Several of the lobbyists, despite their years around government, expressed surprise that a death-penalty trial costs about three times more than other murder trials. Then the costs of appeals and housing an inmate on death row are also much more expensive and prolonged.
“The most obvious argument is, because you’re a conservative, do you trust the government?” said lobbyist Pat Gartland.
Others in the little group also said they were looking at the issue in a new light.
“I think the mindset you bring, that it’s cheaper to house them than to kill them, that’s news to me,” said lobbyist Louie Hunter. “…Nobody wants to be soft on crime, but the facts on this are changing minds.”
Minds in the legislature aren’t being changed yet, at least not according to lawmakers interviewed Thursday.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, said the only change in the state’s law about capital punishment he expects is to make it easier for a defendant’s attorneys to prove mental retardation.
“I think there is an argument for that, but beyond that, I don’t see anything else in the near future,” he said.
Sen. Judson Hill, R-Marietta, isn’t budging either.
“I support Georgia and national law and don’t see a reason to change it,” he said.
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