Nebraska Death Penalty News

Started by Jeff1857, March 14, 2008, 12:03:42 AM

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Jeff1857

March 14, 2008, 12:03:42 AM Last Edit: May 24, 2008, 12:35:56 AM by Jeff1857
State senators will begin debating on March 25 whether Nebraska should have a death penalty for certain first-degree murder cases.

Since the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled a month ago that the state's sole means of execution was unconstitutional, likening it to an archaic form of torture, the state has been without a way to carry out the death penalty.

Now, said Sen. Brad Ashford, chairman of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee, the state needs to think hard about whether it wants to continue to have the death penalty at all.

The bill (LB1063), introduced by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, would substitute life in prison without the possibility of parole for the death penalty. It also removes a system of determining aggravating and mitigating circumstances in those murder cases.

The Department of Correctional Services would be allowed to determine the appropriate security measures and conditions of confinement for inmates sentenced to life without parole.

Some senators, including Speaker Mike Flood, still believe that electrocution is an appropriate sanction for those who commit the most heinous crimes.

Flood has told senators that the possibility exists if the death penalty is not repealed that the Legislature would be called into special session this summer to address the issue of how to carry out the penalty.

Chambers, who will leave the Legislature at the end of the year because of term limits, said there will be other senators joining him in this attempt to repeal the death penalty. And there will be some interesting information brought forth, he said.

The debate should prove instructive, Chambers said.


Jeff1857

LINCOLN -- The Nebraska Supreme Court last month decided to pull the plug on the electric chair. This week, the Legislature will consider whether to close the execution chamber for good.


Lawmakers on Tuesday will begin debating Legislative Bill 1063, which would abolish the death penalty and replace it with a sentence of life in prison without parole.

It will be the third time in a little more than a year that the Legislature has debated capital punishment.

In 2007, lawmakers fell one vote short of advancing, from first-round debate, a bill to repeal the death penalty. Death penalty opponents then regrouped and proposed to sharply restrict death sentences. That fell two votes short of advancing.

The 2007 debate came before the State Supreme Court's decision to ban the electric chair, before the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection, and before New Jersey became the first state in more than 40 years to abolish capital punishment.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, long the Legislature's leading opponent of the death penalty, already has declared a victory of sorts.

For more than 10 years, Chambers had blocked legislation to switch from the electric chair to lethal injection. In the aftermath of electrocution being ruled cruel and unusual punishment, Nebraska is left without a legal means to carry out executions.

Chambers has vowed to keep any new execution method from being approved before he leaves the Legislature at year's end because of term limits.

Amy Miller, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union-Nebraska and board president of Nebraskans Against the Death Penalty, said opponents are in a better position to defeat capital punishment.

"We're fighting a proactive battle because we want to eliminate the death penalty. But people who want to keep the death penalty have to come up with a new recipe for death,'' she said.

"We need to just say we're done and walk away from it,'' she said.

Attorney General Jon Bruning said a proposal to authorize lethal injection will be put before lawmakers in 2009 at the latest. It's also possible that Gov. Dave Heineman could call the Legislature into a special session to consider lethal injection, Bruning said.

"Lawmakers should vote no on the repeal and on any amendments that claim to be a compromise,'' Bruning said. "This is one of these issues where you're either for it or you're not. There really isn't a lot of middle ground on the death penalty.''

Bruning and other death penalty supporters dispute any argument that Nebraskans may be turning away from supporting the death penalty.

Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha noted that the Supreme Court disapproved only of the method of execution, not the death penalty itself.

"I am a strong supporter of the death penalty, and nothing has occurred to change that,'' Lautenbaugh said. "I feel I am in tune with my district wants.''

Some lawmakers said Nebraska's lack of an execution method takes the urgency away from calls to repeal capital punishment.

"It's been 10 years since we've had an execution. We don't have a workable death penalty. Let's still leave it on the books,'' said Sen. Carroll Burling of Kenesaw.

Death penalty opponents may be unable to garner more than the 24 votes they collected last year. In a pre-session survey of lawmakers, 26 of the 49 told The World-Herald they would vote to keep capital punishment.

Heineman has promised to veto a repeal bill if it reaches his desk, meaning death penalty opponents would need at least a 30-vote majority to override a veto if they are to succeed.

"This issue is difficult and emotional, but ultimately our justice system operates most effectively if we do not tolerate atrocious criminal acts,'' Heineman said.

In interviews, some lawmakers who previously voted to repeal indicated they may be wavering.

"I don't know how I'm going to vote,'' said Sen. Kent Rogert of Tekamah. "It will pull me back and forth the entire day. It always does.''

Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha will lead the debate, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He said the death penalty does not lend itself to vote-counting in advance.

"It's a life-and-death issue,'' he said. "It will be decided on the floor as part of the debate.''

Jeff1857

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska lawmakers rejected an attempt to repeal the death penalty on Tuesday, a month after courts left the state with no way to execute its killers.

Twenty senators in the unicameral, officially nonpartisan Legislature voted for the bill to change the maximum penalty to life in prison without possibility of parole. It would have taken 25 votes to advance the debate.

The state Supreme Court ruled in February that the electric chair, the state's sole means of putting inmates to death, amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

The most likely alternative _ lethal injection _ is under federal review in a Kentucky case that questions whether the drugs commonly used risk causing excruciating pain, in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule by June.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican who had been expected to veto the bill if it passed, applauded the vote and said the focus now should be on deciding a legal method of execution for the state.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha introduced the bill to repeal the death penalty, as he has every year for the past three decades. But term limits will push him out of the Capitol after this session.

"Years down the line I can live a lot more comfortably with what I've done these 38 years than what my colleagues can do," Chambers said.

The last execution in the state was in 1997, when Robert Williams was put to death by electrocution.

Death row inmate Carey Dean Moore was scheduled to be executed in May last year, but the state Supreme Court halted it less than a week beforehand. The court said at the time it must reconsider whether the electric chair amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, given a "changing legal landscape."

The court said in its February opinion that evidence shows electrocution inflicts "intense pain and agonizing suffering" and that it "has proven itself to be a dinosaur more befitting the laboratory of Baron Frankenstein" than a state prison.

The state attorney general has asked state Supreme Court justices to reconsider their ruling on the electric chair, although he said he doesn't expect them to change their minds. He's still considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ten men now sit on Nebraska's death row.


Jeff1857

LINCOLN -- A bill that would allow underage murderers to be considered for parole died Friday when it failed to advance from the Judiciary Committee.

Legislative Bill 843 proposed that those convicted of first-degree murder before their 16th birthdays be eligible for parole after 20 years in prison. Those older than 16 but younger than 18 would be eligible for parole after 25 years.

The bill's sponsor, State Sen. Dwite Pedersen of Omaha, said he couldn't get the five votes needed to get the bill out of committee.

Pedersen said some committee members feared that loosening life prison sentences, even for juveniles, would make it more difficult to repeal the death penalty.

He said that he would pursue an interim study of the issue and that he hopes another lawmaker will take it up in 2009, after he leaves office

Jeff1857

LINCOLN, Neb. -- The Nebraska Supreme Court refused on Wednesday to reconsider its ruling that electrocution is unconstitutional.

Nebraska is now a state with a death penalty, but no way to carry it out. Nebraska has been without a means of execution since the state Supreme Court ruled in February that the electric chair amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

In a daylong debate last month, nearly every state senator spoke and some spoke multiple times before defeating a bill to repeal the death penalty. The bill would have made life in prison both the maximum and minimum sentence for first-degree murder.



Twenty senators voted for the bill (LB1063) to change the maximum penalty to life in prison without possibility of parole. It would have taken 25 votes to move past the first round of debate and 30 votes to overcome an expected veto from Republican Gov. Dave Heineman.

Attorney General Jon Bruning issued the following comment about the Nebraska Supreme Court's decision to not reconsider its ruling that electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment:

"We're not surprised by today's decision, but obviously we're disappointed. My office will appeal this ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. Nebraskans overwhelmingly support the death penalty. We'll do everything possible to ensure the sentences of the state's worst murderers are carried out."

Jeff1857

LINCOLN -- Attorney General Jon Bruning says he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a decision that banned the electric chair in Nebraska.

Bruning's promise came after the Nebraska Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to reconsider its February ruling that electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment.

"We're not surprised by today's decision, but obviously, we're disappointed,'' Bruning said.

"Nebraskans overwhelmingly support the death penalty. We'll do everything possible to ensure the sentences of the state's worst murderers are carried out,'' he said.

In its February decision, the State Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that electrocution is unconstitutional. It cited scientific evidence that the electric chair caused unwarranted suffering to condemned prisoners.

That ruling -- in a challenge from Raymond Mata Jr., who was convicted of killing and dismembering a 3-year-old Scottsbluff boy -- did not overturn the death penalty. But it did ban Nebraska's only method of carrying out death sentences.

Bruning had asked the high court to reconsider its ruling in late February, but at the time, he labeled the request a "long shot.''

Mata's lawyer, Jerry Soucie, said he was not surprised that the court declined to reconsider.

"I think it was a foregone conclusion,'' said Soucie, a legal counsel with the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy.

Soucie said he doubted that the U.S. Supreme Court would hear Bruning's appeal.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers, a longtime death penalty opponent, praised the Nebraska Supreme Court for not reconsidering its decision.

"I don't think anybody is surprised, except for perhaps the attorney general,'' he said.

Chambers also said he now would dismiss his pending appeal in another death penalty case, which challenged voltage and jolt instructions Nebraska adopted for using the chair. "It is moot now that there is no electric chair.''

The electric chair was used 15 times in Nebraska, which had been the only remaining state with electrocution as its sole means of execution before the State Supreme Court decision. The last to die in the chair was Robert Williams in 1997.

Nebraska currently has 10 men on death row.

tramoore

#6
May 20, 2008, 04:24:12 PM Last Edit: May 24, 2008, 12:37:49 AM by Jeff1857
LINCOLN, Neb. -- For more than 10 years, John Lotter has faced death in Nebraska's electric chair for the grisly 1993 triple murder that spawned the movie "Boys Don't Cry"

But it is now uncertain whether Lotter and the nine other men on Nebraska's death row will ever be executed following a ruling by the state Supreme Court.

The February ruling that electrocution -- the state's only means of execution -- is cruel and unusual punishment has debate raging among the lawyers involved on the 10 death-row cases: Can an inmate sentenced to die in the electric chair be executed by another means if the state changes the law?

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning says yes.

"They're still sentenced to death," Bruning said recently. "Their punishment remains death and the punishment has not changed."

Attorneys for the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy disagree.

Not only does the law specify electrocution, many of the actual sentencing orders say that the killers will die by a current of electricity, said James Mowbray, chief counsel for the commission.

Nebraska law says the punishment of death "in all cases, shall be by causing to pass through the body of the convicted person a current of electricity of sufficient intensity to cause death; ... A crime punishable by death must be punished according to the provisions herein made and not otherwise."

The state Supreme Court said repeatedly in its ruling that it did not strike the death penalty -- just electrocution as the method.

"If someone tells you with confidence that they know how this will come out, you should get an ounce of what they're smoking," said Bob Schopp, a law professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who specializes in criminal law and capital punishment.

On Sept. 26, 2002, Erick Vela, Jorge Galindo and Jose Sandoval burst into a Norfolk U.S. Bank branch and killed five people.

At the time, Nebraska's death penalty laws were under fire. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that a jury, not a judge, must weigh whether a killing merits a death sentence or life in prison. In Nebraska, judges had handed down death sentences since the 1970s.

Amid the uncertainty and public outrage over the bank killings, Madison County Attorney Joe Smith had to decide whether to seek the death penalty for the men.

"I remember walking through the bank and seeing a lady on the ground, shot in the neck," Smith said, adding that a witness testified that one of the gunmen giggled as he exited the bank.

"You look at a case and you see there's no other place to go" than to seek the death penalty, Smith said.

He said decided to do his job, and hoped state senators did theirs.

Nebraska's death penalty law was changed months later, and Vela, Galindo and Sandoval were sentenced to death.

Attorneys appealed, arguing that the new method of sentencing couldn't apply retroactively, but a judge ruled in 2003 that changes made to the law were procedural only.

To Smith and others, the unavoidable debate about a change in method just means another round of arguments and more delays.

Already, Vela, who pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree murder, has asked his sentence be changed to life imprisonment, citing the state's lack of a constitutional method of execution.

Smith hopes the Legislature will do something to limit appeals and speed sentences.

* * *

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman says he doesn't want to rush.

Before pushing to switch the state's execution method, Heineman waited until the U.S. Supreme Court upheld lethal injection in April in a Kentucky case.

Heineman has asked the Nebraska attorney general to look into the possible methods of execution, a process he says could take several months. Lethal injection is the most likely, although firing squad, hanging and the gas chamber could be options.

The governor has the power to call state senators back for a special session to try to change the law this year.

But Heineman said he probably won't.

"They know that it would be pointless," said Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, the Legislature's staunchest death penalty opponent.

He has ambushed bills to change the method for years, because he was convinced electrocution eventually would be declared unconstitutional.

But Chambers will be term-limited out of office at the end of the year, and Heineman knows that the road will be smoother without him in the way.

The longer the delay, said attorney Jerry Soucie, the more questions.

"The Legislature had an opportunity to do something this session and has elected not to," said Soucie, who works with the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy. "The governor could call a special session and has elected not to. How long can the Legislature and executive branch do nothing before the courts intervene?"

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine doesn't have the luxury of hypotheticals.

He just finished prosecuting Roy Ellis in Omaha. Jurors found Roy Ellis guilty in April of killing 12-year-old Amber Harris and burying her body. They also found there were aggravating factors -- a violent criminal history and a heinous crime. Three judges will decide soon whether Ellis will be put to death.

If Ellis were sentenced to death now -- when Nebraska has no constitutional method of execution -- would the penalty stick?

"The argument will be made," Prof. Schopp predicts. "Whether they'll make any headway in the court remains to be seen."

Kleine said his job is to prove the aggravating factors and let the Legislature and courts figure out the future of capital punishment.

"Right now the penalty still is either life in prison or the death penalty," Kleine said. "What we do is just follow the law."

As for how any appeals will shake out, Schopp said "other than a Ouija board," there's nothing to do but wait.

Jeff1857

TECUMSEH, Neb. - For more than 10 years, John Lotter has faced death in Nebraska's electric chair for the grisly 1993 triple murder that spawned the movie "Boys Don't Cry."

But the state Supreme Court made that sentence uncertain for Lotter and the nine other men on death row in its February ruling that electrocution -- Nebraska's only means of execution -- is cruel and unusual punishment.

Lawyers involved in those death-row cases are now asking if an inmate who is sentenced to die in the electric chair can be executed by another means.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning says yes.

"They're still sentenced to death," Bruning said recently. "Their punishment remains death and the punishment has not changed."

Attorneys for the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy -- who represent many of the men on death row -- disagree. Not only does the law specify electrocution, many of the actual sentencing orders specify that method, said James Mowbray, chief counsel for the commission.

Complicating the situation is that months after the court's action, the governor hasn't proposed a new execution method and the state legislature hasn't met to consider changing the law.

"If someone tells you with confidence that they know how this will come out, you should get an ounce of what they're smoking," said Bob Schopp, a law professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who specializes in criminal law and capital punishment.

Gov. Dave Heineman says he doesn't want to rush. For one thing, he waited until the U.S. Supreme Court upheld lethal injection in April in a Kentucky case.

Heineman has asked Bruning, the Nebraska attorney general, to look into the possible methods of execution, a process he says could take several months. Lethal injection is the most likely, although firing squad, hanging and the gas chamber could be options.

The governor has the power to call state senators back for a special session to try to change the law this year. Heineman said that wasn't likely.

"They know that it would be pointless," said Sen. Ernie Chambers, the Legislature's staunchest death penalty opponent.

The longer the delay, said attorney Jerry Soucie, the more questions.

"The Legislature had an opportunity to do something this session and has elected not to," said Soucie, who works with the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy. "The governor could call a special session and has elected not to. How long can the Legislature and executive branch do nothing before the courts intervene?"

Even with the uncertain situation, another death penalty case is winding its way through the courts. In April, jurors in Omaha found Roy Ellis, a convicted sex offender, of killing 12-year-old Amber Harris and burying her body. Amber had vanished in November 2005 on her way home from school.

Jurors found there were aggravating factors making Ellis eligible for the death penalty. Three judges will decide soon whether Ellis should be put to death.

Meanwhile, Lotter remains on death row for his role in the "Boys Don't Cry" case. He was sentenced to death for killing Teena Brandon, Lisa Lambert and Phillip DeVine in a farmhouse near Humboldt after Brandon reported that Lotter and another man had raped her. Brandon was born a female but for a time lived as a man.

In a prison interview, Lotter said he doesn't buy suggestions that lethal injection is more humane than electrocution. A drug that paralyzes the body likely just hides the suffering, he said.

"You put a cover over it," he said. "How is that humane?"

"Being dead is dead."

He said he will continue to try to prove that his sentence should be overturned because Nissen changed his story last year and now says he, not Lotter, committed the murders. Nissen had earlier testified that Lotter fired all the shots. A county district court judge turned down Lotter's request for a new trial, but Lotter is appealing that ruling to the state Supreme Court.

Brandon's mother, JoAnn Brandon, said there's no doubt in her mind that Lotter was the killer and said she'd be angry if he avoids the death penalty because of a change in method. Lethal injection almost seems too humane, "like putting to sleep a cat or a dog," Brandon said.

"They didn't take any pity on the three people they killed," Brandon said of Lotter and Nissen. "They were cruel and unusual."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080704/ap_on_re_us/death_penalty_nebraska_1

Rick4404

No new news on the Nebraska death penalty. As you know, the Cornhusker State is now a state which has the death penalty on its law books, but no legal way to carry out an execution.

Nebraska's electric chair was effectively unplugged by a decision of the state's supreme court earlier this year. A 4-3 majority of the state's high court ruled that electrocution violates the state constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) decried the ruling as did the state Attorney General Jon Bruning. Bruning said his office plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the state has not yet filed a writ of certiorari with the nation's highest court.

This leaves Nebraska lawmakers with the duty of selecting an alternate primary means of carrying out a death sentence in the state. Numerous attempts to either replace the electric chair with lethal injection outright or to offer lethal injection to condemned inmates as an alternative to electrocution have failed over the last few years in the one house legislative body. Nebraska is the only state which has a unicameral legislature.

The primary opponent of the death penalty in Nebraska was a state senator named Ernie Chambers from Omaha. (Nebraska's legislators are classed as senators). Every year since he was first elected to the Legislature from a residential district in Omaha; Chambers has introduced a death penalty abolition bill.

Chambers will not seek re-election this fall to the seat he's held since 1972 due to term limits. In accordance with a constitutional amendment which was adopted by Nebraska voters, state senators cannot serve for more than two consecutive four year terms.

It is anticipated that a bill to replace the electric chair with lethal injection will be one of the first matters on the agenda when the Legislature convenes again for its next regular session in January 2009. There will be some 20 new faces in the 49 member body because of the senators who've been forced out by term limits. Legislative leaders believe the atmosphere will be more condusive in the upcoming session for a bill to change the mode of execution to be approved.

Jeff1857

I guess Chambers got what he wanted in the long run. Too bad Nebraska can't outsource to Texas like our airlines and banks did to India right.

Rick4404

#10
July 16, 2008, 12:55:29 AM Last Edit: July 16, 2008, 11:20:21 AM by Rick4404

I guess Chambers got what he wanted in the long run. Too bad Nebraska can't outsource to Texas like our airlines and banks did to India right.


True enough about Senator Chambers (I mean former senator after Jan. 1, 2009). You know the sad thing is that the majority of his colleagues in the Nebraska Legislature were culpable in this whole deal. As I mentioned before, bill after bill which sought to make the switch to lethal injection had been considered, but none ever saw the light of day.

It seems to me that this is exactly what the Legislature wanted to happen. The whole subject of the death penalty down there is one huge political hot potato. Although Nebraska is a largely conservative state and most people down there do support the death penalty the subject has been debated ad nauseum over the last 15 years or so. Only three men have been executed in the state since reinstatement of the death penalty.

In that the state Supreme Court declared the use of the electric chair to be unconstitutional, legislators can therefore go back to their constituents and say: "Hey, I voted to keep the death penalty. It was the Supreme Court who did that, and of course I don't have anything to do with what they decide."

In that Nebraska has a single house Legislature, under its standing rules, each bill and resolution has to go through three rounds of debate before final passage.

A thumbnail of the process:

1. Introduction
2. Steering committee refers bill to standing committee
3. Standing committee schedules public hearing on bill (all bills must have a public hearing).
4. Committee votes to send bill onto general file. This is where the full legislative body debates a bill for the first time. Or the committee can vote to indefinitely postpone the bill, effectively killing it in committee.
5. On general file, a bill is debated, amendments added, etc. and a vote is taken. If at least 25 senators vote to approve, the bill goes to Enrollment and Review Initial. If the bill does not get 25 votes at this stage of the process, it then stands defeated. This is where a committee of legislators goes over each bill with a fine tooth comb and enrolls amendments into the bill. In other words the bill is cut and pasted the first time. The bill is then sent to Select File.
6. On select file, this is the second round of debate on a bill before the full Legislature. Further debate and possible amendments to the bill occur. The Legislature again votes on the bill and 25 votes sends the bill to Enrollment and Review Final. If the bill does not get the required 25 votes it stands defeated. The enrollment and review committee once again engrosses the bill and prints it into final form. The bill is then sent to Final Reading.
7. On final reading, the bill is debated one final time before the full Legislature. No further amendments are permitted. All members of the Legislature must be present. After discussion a final vote is taken. 25 votes out of the 49 senators is required to pass the bill. If passed, the bill is messengered to the governor for his review. If the bill does not get 25 votes, it stands defeated.
8. Review by the governor. He has the following options:
a. Sign bill into law (it becomes law 90 days following the adjournment of the Legislature for that session).
b. Vetoed by governor. Bill is sent back to the Legislature with the governor's objections to the bill in writing. The Legislature once again debates the bill and then a two thirds vote or 33 legislators would be required to override the bill. If the veto is overridden, it becomes law. If the bill gets fewer than 33 votes then the bill dies.
c. Allowed to become law without signature -- if the governor does not sign a bill within three days of receiving it while the Legislature is in session, the bill becomes law.
d. "Pocket" veto. Once the Legislature has adjourned for the year, the governor has the option of not signing a bill, which is then considered a veto.

Here's a full look at the lawmaking process in Nebraska: http://www.unicam.state.ne.us/web/public/lawmaking

Such a drawn out process down there for each and every bill, huh?

Jeff1857

Without Chambers, senators likely to act on execution


With death penalty opponent Ernie Chambers gone, the Legislature will probably change Nebraska's method of execution to lethal injection.

A survey by The Associated Press shows 28 of the 49 senators and senators-elect favor the change.

The session gets under way on Wednesday. Because of term limits, Chambers won't be there.

The Nebraska Supreme Court has declared electrocution unconstitutional, leaving the state with no means of carrying out its death penalty.

Chambers had spent his long career in the Legislature trying to get rid of capital punishment.

He blocked every bill that would have changed the method of execution because he was convinced the electric chair eventually would be ruled unconstitutional.

(source: Associated Press)


JeffB

Hmmm, that's good news..  Looks like Nebraska may get on-board with LI...  `Bout time too...  Welcome to the 21st century Cornhuskers...... 
"SO SUCK IT YOU "BLUE COOLER" DOPE!"  -  Sylar24

Granny B

Let's hope they get it passed this time, for the sake of the victims and their families who are waiting for justice to be done. :-*
" Closure? Closure is a misused word in the English language.  There is no such thing as closure for the family of a murder victim.  There will never be any closure for the death of our loved ones until we are dead ourselves.  The families have a lifetime sentence of anguish and sadness." 
Susan Levy

Jeff1857

Lethal injection backed in survey


Since the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled 11 months ago that electrocution was cruel and unusual punishment, the state has been without a legal means to carry out the death penalty.

That might not last long, a pre-session survey of state lawmakers indicates.

29 state senators -- 4 more than needed to adopt a law -- indicated in the World-Herald survey that they either supported or would strongly consider adopting lethal injection as the means to carry out the ultimate penalty.

6 of those responding said they were undecided, while only 5 indicated that they opposed lethal injection or the death penalty. 9 senators, all Democrats in the officially nonpartisan body, declined to participate in the survey.

Both Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning have voiced support for changing the mode of execution from the electric chair.

10 prisoners are currently on Nebraska's death row.

1 supporter of lethal injection, Speaker Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk, said the strong backing indicates that senators recognize the need to adopt a legal means to carry out Nebraska's death penalty.

Flood said he supports lethal injection and the death penalty because capital punishment is warranted for the most heinous of murders.

Still, the speaker said, it won't be easy to adopt lethal injection, despite the majority support and the exit of State Sen. Ernie Chambers, the Legislature's staunchest opponent of the death penalty.

"It's not an issue anyone looks forward to discussing," Flood said.

Newly elected State Sen. Tanya Cook of Omaha stated on the survey that she was "philosophically opposed to the death penalty."

Another new senator, Ken Haar of Malcolm, answered that he'd prefer to abolish the death penalty and substitute a sentence of life in prison without parole as the ultimate criminal penalty.

Jill Francke, the state coordinator for Nebraskans Against the Death Penalty, said it's too early to translate 29 supporters in a survey into easy passage for lethal injection.

Many senators, Francke said, have not considered the nuances of switching from the electric chair to lethal injection and haven't looked at the high cost of death penalty trials and appeals.

The recent clearing of 6 people who had been convicted in a 1985 murder in Beatrice, she said, should give lawmakers pause to consider the overall soundness of the state's judicial system and whether the death penalty should remain.

Several of the 6 have said they were pressured into false confessions in exchange for escaping the possibility of the death penalty.

"Given the problems we have in the judicial system and the expense, there are no benefits that outweigh just getting rid of the death penalty," Francke said.

In Kansas, she said, the median cost of death penalty trials was $1.26 million, which is about 70 percent more than non-death penalty cases.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


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