Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty will seek to reinstate the death penalty in Minnesota next year, saying he is “fed up” with stories about violent sexual offenses, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Pawlenty said the arrest of a convicted sexual offender in the Nov. 22 disappearance of University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin was the “tipping point” in his decision.
Minnesota is one of a dozen states that does not impose the death penalty. The state abolished it in 1911, five years after a botched hanging, and attempts to reinstate it have always failed. Pawlenty’s proposal comes as there are fewer executions in the U.S. and some polls find the public less supportive of it, though a majority still favors it. A 2000 Star Tribune poll found that support for the death penalty in Minnesota had slipped slightly since 1996 but that 57 percent supported it for convicted murderers.
New York was the last state to adopt the death penalty, in 1995. The state has yet to execute anyone. “It is sort of a strange time to be jumping into that fray,” said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, which is critical of the way the death penalty has been applied.
Opinions in Minnesota may have changed, the Pioneer Press says. The legislature is much more conservative than it was for decades, and Pawlenty is the first recent governor to push the issue. “The governor’s support raises the probability of its passage,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Steve Smith, R-Mound, who supports the death penalty.