Missoula Republican sponsors bill to abolish death penalty

By Cole Grant/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – A bill in the Montana Legislature would abolish the death penalty in Montana and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“The death penalty system, like so many government programs, is wasteful, ineffective, and unjust,” said Rep. Adam Hertz, R-Missoula, who’s carrying House Bill 366.

Rep. Adam Hertz, R-Missoula

Many of the bill’s proponents who testified at the House Judiciary Committee Monday morning, including lawmakers, faith leaders and a former death row inmate, argued the death penalty costs too much money, is morally wrong and takes up too much time in the court system.

Committee member Rep. Seth Berglee, R-Joliet, however, says he generally supports the death penalty.

“I think in the justice system, it’s not just about cost, it’s also about justice and application of justice, so I think that’s an overriding factor,” Berglee said.

There are currently two people on death row in Montana.

No one testified in opposition to HB 366 at the hearing. Last session, a similar bill passed committee by one vote but died in the House on a 50-50 vote.

The committee did not take action on the bill Monday.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.