Capital punishment debated in Senate committee

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - The Senate Judiciary Committee considered the ethics of capital punishment on Wednesday. Next week, they'll be asked to decide how Arkansas should carry out the punishment.It was a hearing filled with emotional testimony as activists made their cases for and against the death penalty."I have to say, I supported the death penalty. I believed in it, deterrent affect for the worst of the worst. I found out I was wrong, almost dead wrong at the age of 35," testified former Arizona death row inmate Ray Krone.As Krone shared his story, the heaviness of a life a death decision weighed on the room. Krone spent 10 years in jail, several awaiting his death, until DNA evidence made him the 100th person exonerated on death row. "It didn't matter who did it, as long as somebody paid the price," said Krone of the capital punishment system.Right now, the Arkansas can sentence a person to death but can't perform the execution. The State Supreme Court ruled the legislature must reevaluate and rework the execution method, but first, this committee chose to reexamine the punishment itself."Even if no minds were changed today, which I don't know if they were or not, it's important to hear that kind of testimony because this is a serious matter," said Judiciary Chairman Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson.Only last year, Arkansans were reminded how serious capital punishment is when a jury sentenced Jerry Lard to death for shooting Officer Jonathan Schmidt."As he sat there and told him, 'I have three children please, please don't shoot me again,' he (Lard) picked up my son's pistol who worked for the Truman Police Department and shot him point blank range," testified Donald Schmidt, father of murdered police Officer Jonathan SchmidtSchmidt wants this committee to approve a new methodology of execution for the sake of justice."There was one person that committed this awful crime, and that's Jerry Lard, and Jerry Lard deserves the death penalty, and I hope to God the state of Arkansas carries it out," said Schmidt.Next week the Judiciary Committee will consider a bill, effectively allowing executions in the state to be carried out once again. Wednesday, the committee did pass Senate Bill 52 which allows family members of the victim in capital cases to view the execution from behind a glass window. As of now, family can only watch the execution via a closed circuit television.

COMPLETE COVERAGEArk. governor signs lethal injection legislation (Feb. 20)Ark. House panel to vote lethal injection measure (Feb. 14)Ark. legislative panel approves execution proposal (Jan. 30)Capital punishment debated in Senate committee (Jan. 30)Execution legislation to be filed in Arkansas (Jan. 21)Ark. lawmaker proposes changes to lethal injection (Jan. 17)Beebe says he'd sign bill outlawing death penalty (Jan. 16)Execution issues likely on tap in Ark. session (Dec. 2)