Indiana lawmakers seek harsher penalty for beheading crimes

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – A group of Indiana lawmakers backed legislation Tuesday that would make intentionally decapitating someone a crime eligible for the death penalty.

The state Senate’s criminal law committee unanimously backed the bill, which would also make decapitation punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, said it would clear up any confusion as to whether beheadings are covered by successful legislation he previously proposed that extended the death penalty to cases in which victims are burned, mutilated or tortured.

Lawmakers said it isn’t clear whether a beheading could be classified under the current statute as the dismemberment of “an essential part of the body.” The new bill would extend that definition to specifically include decapitation or attempted decapitation while the victim is alive.

Steele pointed to recent out-of-state cases as a reason why he thinks Indiana needs its own decapitation law. In Oklahoma, a fired worker allegedly beheaded a colleague and in Florida, a man allegedly beheaded his mother with an axe. Steele said the heinous nature of the crime should justify the death penalty or life in prison without parole in Indiana.

“It’s not quick. It’s not painless,” Steele said. “I believe that it’s probably one of the most gruesome ways to die.”

Death penalty opponents contend that capital punishment amounts to “recycling the violence” and isn’t necessary.

“We can honor the victim and protect society without the death penalty,” said executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference Glen Tebbe. “There are more moral ways in which to seek restitution and punishment.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for full consideration.

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