Why would the legislature take steps to abolish the death penalty? Is it for cost? Is it for moral reasons?
The legislature is doing this more from a moral standpoint than a financial one. Finances are an issue. Death penalty cases are very very expensive to prosecute and defend, but the moral aspect has been at the heart of what drives legislators' opposition to the death penalty.
The repeated exonerations, the bad evidence that keeps popping up, the coerced confessions, DNA contradicting what police have asserted, prosecutorial misconduct before, during and after trial. All have chipped away at the confidence the legislators have in the process.
One legislator put is succinctly, "You can let a person out of jail if you make a mistake, but it is much harder to let them out of the coffin if you have made a mistake."
Is this something that could catch on nationwide with other states who still have the death penalty on the books?
As for the nationwide trend, I believe there are only 15 states who do not have the death penalty right now. Most believe it is either morally wrong or they also have cited problems with the process. The states that do have it, like Texas and Florida, show no indication that they are going to abolish that penalty anytime soon.
What are the benefits of having the death penalty?
I can speak from personal experience as for the benefit of having it even if you are not going to enforce it. When you interrogate someone accused of murder as a law enforcement officer, it is a very powerful tool to get someone to explain to a defendant that the actions of a codefendant may qualify them for the death penalty. This tends to gain cooperation from those less culpable codefendants to help solve more serious crimes.
think we could all have lived with the moratorium on the death penalty, but Sen. Kwame Raoul and other sponsors see it as a chance to make the justice system more fair for all the people involved.