The Montana House Monday came within one vote of approving a bill to abolish the death penalty.
Helena Democrat Jenny Eck read a letter signed by 55 relatives of murder victims, urging the state to do away with capital punishment
“We know that elected officials who promote the death penalty often do so with the best intentions of helping family members like us," Eck read. "We are writing to say that there are better ways to help us. The death penalty is a broken and costly system. Montana doesn’t need it and victims’ families like ours don’t want it."
Montana has only two inmates on death row and hasn’t executed anyone since 2006. Even so, supporters say the death penalty is a useful tool.
Republican Frank Garner, a former Kalispell Police chief, says prosecutors often use the threat of the death penalty to convince murder suspects to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence.
“Don’t take away the right for a prosecutor to make this decision with the family of someone who’s been killed, murdered and where those aggravating circumstances apply. Don’t take it away from them," Garner advised lawmakers.
The House split 50-50 on the bill, likely ending its chances for this session.