House panel adds death penalty provisions

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Judiciary B Chairman Rep. Andy Gipson, right, confers with Rep. Willie Bailey, D- Greenville, before a committee meeting.

Killing a police officer can mean the death penalty in Mississippi.

Under a bill approved by a House committee Thursday morning, crimes against other types of professions would also be capital offense.

The House Judiciary B Committee passed HB 645, which adds murder of “fire department personnel, emergency medical personnel, emergency management personnel and public works personnel” to the list of capital offenses.

Several other versions of the law in the House and Senate would add these jobs as protected classes under the state’s little-used hate crimes law.

The most recent data from the Federal Bureau of Investigations show that no hate crimes were reported in Mississippi in 2015.

“I’ve been asked why don’t we treat all lives the same? I don’t get up every morning and lay my life on the line,” said Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, who chairs the committee.

The committee also passed legislation that would give the state of Mississippi more options to put people to death if lethal injection drugs are unavailable. Several lawsuits have been filed in states, including Mississippi, over the use of chemicals used in lethal injections.

If chemicals that comprise the traditional injection cocktail are unavailable, the bill proscribes an alternative sequence, which includes the use of potassium chloride or similarly effective substance, then nitrogen hypoxia.

After that, the state could opt for the firing squad, which Gipson said are options in two other states, or electrocution.