Governor opposes
death penalty

But she says she wouldn't
veto such a measure if support
was strong in the Legislature

Sailor may face execution

By Richard Borreca

Gov. Linda Lingle says she strongly opposes allowing both the death penalty and assisted suicide in Hawaii; however, she is not likely to veto such measures if the Legislature shows strong support in passing them.

State of Hawaii "It would depend how it passed the Legislature, but I am very much against it," Lingle said yesterday about a proposal suggested by state Sen. Willie Espero to reinstate the death penalty.

Espero (D, Ewa-Kapolei) wants Hawaii to be able to apply capital punishment for the death of a minor who has been sexually assaulted.

He also is calling for a law that would impose the death penalty for the murder of a minor, regardless of whether a sexual assault occurred.

Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, Judiciary Committee chairwoman, supports death with dignity, but like Lingle is opposed to the death penalty.

"I am not for capital punishment, but I haven't seen the bill being proposed. I will wait to read it," said Hanabusa (D, Waianae).

She promised, however, that her committee would hold hearings on Espero's bill.

"The issue is one that deserves a hearing, and people should voice their concerns, although I am not personally for it," Hanabusa said.

Lingle said yesterday she also was opposed to assisted suicide, also known as death with dignity.

"I am against it in all forms," Lingle told reporters, "but it all depends on how the bill passes the Legislature. If something passes unanimously, I can't imagine vetoing it.

"In my eight years as mayor of Maui, I only vetoed one thing that passed unanimously. The Council overrode my veto, but then the next year, they repealed the measure anyway," Lingle said.

If a bill she opposes comes to her with strong legislative support, Lingle said she is likely to allow it to become law without her signature, instead of vetoing it.

Former Hawaii Gov. John Burns did something similar when presented with the first state legislative bill in the nation to permit abortions. Although he was against the bill, he allowed it to go into law without his signature.

Espero said yesterday that he has not started lining up support for his death penalty bill and acknowledged that it would "be an uphill battle."

Hawaii did away with the death penalty in 1957.

Espero said he is pushing the measure because in his district surveys, 75 percent of his constituents say they support it.

"If there is any doubt in a case, I don't think the death penalty should be applied, but there are cases were the evidence is irrefutable. I say the punishment goes with the crime," Espero said.

The Hawaii chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union restated its opposition to the death penalty yesterday, saying there is no proof that the death penalty is a deterrent to murder, because states with capital punishment do not have lower murder rates.

ACLU Executive Director Vanessa Chong said, however, that her group does support death with dignity.

Legislature Bills & Hawaii Revised Statutes

Testimony by email:
Include in the email the committee name; bill number;
date, time and place of the hearing; and number of copies
(as listed on the hearing notice.) For more information,
or call 587-0478.

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