ATLANTA - House lawmakers' attempts to amend Sen. Preston Smith's bill establishing a murder sentence of life without parole will kill his legislation.
And the Rome Republican said their efforts are misguided, in addition to fouling up his well-meaning effort in Senate Bill 13.
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Senate Bill 13: http://www.legis.ga.gov
Sen. Smith has been trying for years to establish life without parole as an allowed objective for punishment in murder cases.
Currently, the sentence can be given only in capital cases where the jury decides on a punishment other than execution. Prosecutors want Sen. Smith's option and say current law is expensive and wasteful.
As it has before, his bill passed the Senate. SB 13 came to the House floor Tuesday with protections from amendment.
And again House lawmakers saw it as a means to seek their desired change in Georgia's capital punishment law. They want to allow the death penalty even when a jury votes 9-3 in favor of execution.
House leadership on Tuesday sent the bill to the Rules Committee where it can be stripped of protection.
Sen. Smith said he was told House members were trying to amend his bill for their desired change regarding juries that aren't unanimous.
"That kills it," he said about the amendment.
Supporters of the death penalty change hope for new momentum this year in the wake of the Brian Nichols courthouse shootings trial, where three jurors held out for a sentence of life without parole instead of death.
Sen. Smith said not only does that effort ruin his attempt to expedite court proceedings but it could damage existing law.
"I am worried it jeopardizes Georgia's death penalty in general," said the senator, an attorney and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Correspondent Jake Armstrong and The Associated Press contributed to this report.