Indiana proposal could limit death penalty

Indiana

VANDERBURGH COUNTY, Ind. (WEHT) — Senate Bill 252 in the Indiana General Assembly would all but eliminate the death penalty in the state and would take at least one southern Indiana man off of death row.

Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding is weighing in after that possible legislation could forever change Indiana’s death penalty.

“The time it takes to put a person to death in my opinion sometimes isn’t worth the trouble,” said Sheriff Wedding. “In my 40 years of law enforcement, I have seen several capital crimes where the perpetrator has been on death row for 20 years before they are executed. It’s troublesome to the family, I think a life in prison without parole would satisfy me as a law enforcement officer.” 

Under the current law, anyone can be sentenced to death only for murder and if the state proves one of 18 aggravated circumstances. 

The proposed bill would get rid of the death penalty with the exception of a few cases, including if the person commits murder against more than one victim or if a public safety officer is murdered.

Sheriff Wedding said it won’t make much of a difference. 

“I think it will protect law enforcement a little more, I’m not sure it will stop the crime, it might satisfy the law enforcement’s family members for such a heinous crime,” explained Sheriff Wedding. 

The bill is also retroactive, meaning anyone on death row whose crimes do not fit the new criteria would have their sentences changed to life in prison, including one Spencer County man. 

Roy Lee Ward is on death row for the 2001 murder of Stacey Payne, but since his crime only involved one person, he would no longer be eligible for the death penalty.  

Sherrif Wedding said he is neutral, but feels the cons of the death penalty outweigh the pros.  

“What happens any time you take something to the court of law and get attorneys involved, you also have to get a jury to probably agree sometimes on a vote, and it puts them in a bad (spot) because they have to determine if they take a life and it’s tough, it’s tough on a lot of people,” Sheriff Wedding said. 

Sheriff Wedding said at the end of the day, it’s about keeping the community safe.

“My goal is always to remove a serious or violent offender from our streets with the end goal of keeping our society a safer place to live,” Sheriff Wedding said.

The committee voted 8-0 to send the bill to a summer study committee, which will come back next year with possible recommended changes to Indiana’s death penalty.

(This story was originally published on February 3, 2021)

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