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Death penalty in Michigan? Doesn't seem likely

A Michigan senator wants the death penalty in  Michigan for cases in which a cop is killed. This Week in Review, Jack and Zoe discuss the proposal’s timing and what would need to happen for it to become a reality.

Bringing it back

A democratic senator from Detroit wants Michigan to legalize the death penalty for people convicted of killing a police or correctional officer.

Senator Virgil Smith said he’s making the push on behalf of a voter in his district whose son was killed in the line of duty.

Lessenberry said it’s “tradition” for legislators to make proposals like this every so often.

“It’s sort of a feel-good thing to introduce legislation like this,” Lessenberry said. “But I can tell you, nothing will come of it.”

Constitutional revision

It would take an amendment to the state’s constitution to make capital punishment a reality in Michigan.

To make that happen, there’d have to be a two-thirds vote in the state House and Senate before the resolution would go to the ballot for voters to ultimately decide.

Lessenberry is doubtful legislators would let it get that far.

“Polls show that Michigan voters don’t want the death penalty,” he said. “If it were to get to the ballot, and I’m predicting it certainly won’t, it would fail.”

Is timing everything?

After a year of botched executions in other states making headlines, it’s fair to say Smith’s timing is interesting

Especially since as a state, Michigan has never allowed the death penalty and was one of the first English-speaking jurisdictions to abolish it.

Lessenberry said there are plenty of constituents who’d like to keep it that way.

“This [proposal] would not surprise me if we’d had some horrific murder of a police officer,” Lessenberry said. “Fortunately, we haven’t.”

-Rebecca Kruth, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
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