Emotional testimony as Delaware death penalty repeal goes to full senate [video]

In a 4-2 vote, legislation repealing the death penalty in Delaware moves on to the full senate, following a day of testimony from those in favor of and opposed to abolishing the death penalty.

Everyone from murder victims’ family members to a juror in a capital case urged the state’s senate executive committee to clear Senate Bill 19, which would replace the death penalty with life without parole.  

“The man who killed my brother, if he had been executed, it would not begin to make up for the loss of my brother… It’s never going to balance the scales,” said Kristin Froehlich, board president of Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty. 

Froehlich’s brother, David, was murderd in 1995 in Connecticut; David’s case went to trial three years later. 

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“It was a terrible time… The focus on the killer and the details of the murder were torture. The uncertainty was torture,” Froehlich testified. “I felt like my life was on hold.”

Prosecutors suddenly dropped the death penalty, fearing they wouldn’t get a conviction. David’s killer was sentenced to life without parole. “I knew then that the death penalty was a false promise.”

“I wasn’t always opposed to the death penalty,” stated 59-year-old Stewart Dotts of Newark. Dotts was a juror in the James Cooke capital case. Cooke was convicted of murdering University of Delaware student Lindsey Bonistall in 2005. “For weeks I was unable to stop reliving that singular moment when I wrote ‘death’ on a tiny slip of paper.”

“We’ve listened to the people that have testified, and I will admit, it’s been moving testimony,” said Georgetown Police Chief Bill Topping. “But after 40 years in law enforcement I understand the necessity of having the death penalty.”

In Sept. 2009, Chief Topping lost an officer in the line of duty – Chad Spicer. Sentenced to death, Derrick Powell is now one of 17 men on death row in Delaware. 

“The Delaware system is, in the opinion of the Delaware Police Chiefs Council, is not broken. It functions very well, it has been very successful,” said Chief Jeffrey Horvath, head of Lewes’ police department and head of the police chiefs council.

Arguing the death penalty is not a deterrent, is more expensive than keeping a criminal behind bars and is racially biased, Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson, R-Milford, supports repealing the death penalty. Simpson says while it’ll be close, he believes the bill will eventually make its way to the governor’s desk.


WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal