Governor Branstad: Penalty Push Unlikely in 2013

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad speaks during the Health and Human Services Committee panel meeting at the National Governors Association's winter meetings in Washington Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

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By Aaron Hepker

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad says he supports instituting the death penalty but won't push for such legislation because he doubts it would clear the Senate.

Branstad, a Republican, noted Monday that he has long supported approval of a death penalty in cases of kidnap or rape where the victim is killed. In his earlier stint as governor, he tried unsuccessfully to approve capital punishment in Iowa.

Some Iowa lawmakers have called for changing Iowa law to allow the death penalty following the discovery of two bodies believed to be cousins Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook, who went missing last summer.

In his 1994 campaign for re-election, Branstad made reinstatement of the death penalty a central issue of his campaign. That summer, 9-year-old Anna Marie Emry of Grinnell was kidnapped, raped and killed. And although Branstad won the election after attacking Democratic opponent Bonnie Campbell's opposition to the death penalty, the Legislature didn't pass a bill reinstating capital punishment.

As in 1995, Democrats now control the Senate and Republicans control the House. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, a Council Bluffs Democrat, opposes reinstatement of the death penalty and would likely block debate on such legislation, Branstad said.

"I like to focus on things that have a realistic chance of being approved," Branstad told reporters during a Capitol press conference. "Considering the present makeup of the Senate, and Sen. Gronstal's adamant position, we need to focus on things that I can accomplish in the next couple years."

Iowa outlawed capital punishment in 1965.

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