Death Penalty

Nebraska's Republican-Dominated Legislature Abolishes Death Penalty

Nebraska becomes first predominately Republican state to abolish capital punishment in more than 40 years

|

CA Corrections

Today, the Nebraska legislature voted 30-19 to override Governor Pete Rickett's veto of legislation repealing capital punishment in the cornhusker state. This makes Nebraska the first Republican dominated state to abolish the death penalty in more than 40 years.

Last week, the legislature overwhelmingly passed the bill with a veto proof majority—32 to 15. However, Governor Ricketts vetoed the bill on Tuesday, stating he did so for public safety reasons. "We need to have strong sentencing. We need to be sure our prosecutors have the tools to be able to put these hardened criminals behind bars," he said. (Nevermind that the repeal won't actually prevent the state from keeping criminals behind bars…)

Prior to issuing his veto, Gov. Ricketts announced that the state recently purchased more than $50,000 worth of sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide in order to "resolve" the "functionality of the death penalty in Nebraska." Despite only having 11 inmates on death row, the amount of drugs purchased is enough for "thousands of executions."

According to Buzzfeed, the drugs purchased by the state come from a questionable source:

Rickett's office said the drugs were purchased from a distributor in India called HarrisPharma, a source that shouldn't be unfamiliar to Nebraska officials. The state purchased drugs from a broker named Chris Harris, who now runs HarrisPharma, several years ago, but Nebraska was never able to use them after questions over whether the purchase was done legally.

In 2011, the manufacturer claimed the drugs were free samples given to Harris for tests in Africa, but were "wrongfully diverted" to Nebraska's execution chamber.

Controversy has surrounded a number of states that have carried out or have attempted to carry out executions with questionable lethal injection drugs—some of which have been botched—in recent months. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing whether Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol—specifically, the use of the drug midazolam—violates the Constitution's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

The man behind Nebraska's death penalty abolition bill is state senator Ernie Chambers, who says he has tried to abolish the death penalty in the state 37 times. What made this year different, however, is the amount of support he was able to garner from conservative legislators. "Conservatives have vowed that whenever they find a government program that isn't working, they will scrap it. And if there is a government program that doesn't achieve its goals, it's the death penalty," he said.

With today's vote, Nebraska became the 19th state to abolish the death penalty, along with the District of Columbia. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Nebraska has executed only three inmates the past 50 years, the most recent of which occurred in 1997. All three inmates were executed by electrocution.

For more, here's ReasonTV's "3 Reasons to Get Rid of the Death Penalty"

Advertisement

NEXT: Introducing The Bernie Sanders Save the Children Fund

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. override a veto of a repeal. Dammit, I can’t do math this late in the day!

    1. I don’t not know what didn’t happen, either.

      1. Don’t do what Johnny Don’t does.

    2. “Death penalty abolished, thanks to Nebraska legislature.

      “New law says no more execution

      “Nebraska governor tried to defend the death penalty with a veto, but the legislature overrode him.”

      1. “Nebraska prisons now to be referred to as No-Kill criminal shelters.”

      2. Dammit, I can’t RTFA this late in the day!!

  2. This is what happens when Christians dominate your legislature. Goddamn pro-lifers.

    1. My reaction was “finally religious people do something that doesn’t make me want to gouge out my eyeballs.”

      1. true. with all fairness your screen name makes me want to gouge out my eyeballs, St McGoodbody

      2. I was about to say the obvious. No society can be truly civilized without a properly implemented death penalty.

  3. Governor Ricketts vetoed the bill on Tuesday, stating he did so for public safety reasons. “We need to have strong sentencing. We need to be sure our prosecutors have the tools to be able to put these hardened criminals behind bars,” he said.

    WTF?
    This is like when the governor of Illinois suspended the death penalty and some shrieking twat on the teevee made it sound as if he had set everybody on Death Row free.

  4. “We need to have strong sentencing. We need to be sure our prosecutors have the tools to be able to put these hardened criminals behind bars,”

    Wait, after their convicts are executed, do they still keep them behind bars?

    1. Scares the other convicts straight, I tell ya!

      1. A different version worked in “Support Your Local Sheriff.”

    2. That would make an interesting* museum, and warning to others.

      *I do not endorse every interesting thing out there.

    3. I don’t vote (standard libertarian anarchist reasons) but during the last election I thought that Ricketts was the lesser of two evils. I think I was wrong. First he and the attorney general decide to appeal a circuit court ruling striking down our gay marriage ban (Nebraska can’t afford to live down to stereotypes) then he goes into a huff about medical marijuana and now this. We aren’t Texas, it gets cold here in the winter and people are more apt to believe bullshit misconceptions about our state than they are about Texas or Florida, yet this foul piece of human excrement has done everything in his power to make us look like fucking inbreds with chili in our beards. He’s practically putting up a sign that says “don’t move here, it’s full of idiots.” Fuck this guy.

      1. Right, you can’t be sophisticated uness you believe there are such things as homo marriages and gender “reassignments.” what a stupid generation – totally confused about something as
        elementary and obvious as human gender.

    4. The governor’s point with his statement about tools to keep hardened criminals behind bars has a disgusting logic behind it. If you can threaten a suspect with the death penalty he or she is more likely to confess, sparing the state a trial. What’s appalling about this is that this is the very tactic used by prosecutors in an infamous case here from the 80s involving six people from southern Nebraska. They were all later exonerated, but only after spending decades in prison, one of them dying before his name was cleared. They confessed to crimes they didn’t commit to avoid the death penalty. Apparently the governor thinks this is a good tactic. The death penalty also gives prosecutors a tool in jury selection, by eliminating jurors who oppose capital punishment they greatly increase their chances to convict. The governor’s argument becomes even more disturbing when we consider that just a few years ago the head of the Douglas County crime lab was convicted of planting blood evidence in a murder case, implicating two completely innocent men.

      1. It truly takes a wicked, perhaps evil, mind to knowingly railroad innocent people into prison and claim mission accomplished. Truly wretched and makes be believe in karma in hopes they meet the wrath of justice.

        Looks at Coakley.

      2. “They confessed to crimes they didn’t commit to avoid the death penalty.”

        No, they confessed to a crime they did not commit in order to avoid the risk of a death penalty conviction. Said conviction not being guaranteed, and even if they had subsequently been convicted the outcome would most likely have been entirely similar – dying of other causes while rotting in prison.

        Heinlein said “you can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.”

  5. So it is a big headline because it is Republicans, or is it a big headline because it is not unprecedented?

    I recall a fellow, who resembles WC Fields in a way, bragging about his yummy pecan pie going down well as he refused to stop an execution in Arkansas. He wasn’t an R either.

  6. What made this year different, however, is the amount of support he was able to garner from conservative legislators. “Conservatives have vowed that whenever they find a government program that isn’t working, they will scrap it. And if there is a government program that doesn’t achieve its goals, it’s the death penalty,”

    Jesus, could a singularity in conservative circles be occurring here? Is there a notion in the rabble that doesn’t think the government doesn’t do anything particularly well? What’s next after this travesty? Shutting down the NSA data sweeps and no-fly lists?

    1. At the state level there is a lot of good going on. At the federal level keeping out the FOREIGN HORDE beats out all other priorities.

  7. after their convicts are executed, do they still keep them behind bars?

    Gibbets, dude.

  8. I am fine with the death penalty in principal but America’s justice system just isn’t nearly there. It’s not worthy of DP.

    1. I don’t think ANY justice system can ever be “there” enough to justify taking a person’s life. Justice isn’t truth, after all; mistakes can happen even in the most “open and shut” cases. Justice is giving any wrongfully-convicted innocent person the ability to overturn the mistake.

      1. As opposed to keeping them caged, in a state of perpetual combat, with other hardened predators?

        You cannot undo that either.

        Modern medicine unjustly kills more lives every year than the penal system – counting both lawful executions and prisoner homicides.

        1. As opposed to keeping them caged, in a state of perpetual combat, with other hardened predators?

          You cannot undo that either.

          Yes you can. Let them out and it’s not perpetual anymore. If death were preferable to imprisonment, why doesn’t every prisoner commit suicide?

          This is a terrible argument for the death penalty and in no way counters the argument that one problem with the death penalty is that innocent people can’t be released if they are exonerated.

          The will to live is quite strong. It’s easy for you to say that, but most people facing the prospect of the execution do seem to want to live.

          And remember, we are talking about the innocent people who get convicted, which definitely does happen. Innocent people have undeniably been executed in the US in the modern era.

          1. Yes you can.

            Not really. You can’t unring the bell or give them back those years.

        2. “Modern medicine unjustly kills more lives every year than the penal system – counting both lawful executions and prisoner homicides.”

          Would love to see the source on this. Not sarc.

          1. Yeah, I’m still trying to figure out how modern medicine kills people “unjustly”. Sounds like a category error to me.

  9. The cruciform execution bed is a nice touch.

    1. If you don’t get Sean Penn doing the Jesus Christ pose at the end, what good is the movie?

      1. Let’s just execute Sean Penn.

        1. ^ I think most of us can agree on this.

    2. For some reason, I find that a much more horrifying and creepy execution setup than a gallows or guillotine would be.

    1. Also, good for them!

  10. Nebraska becomes first predominately Republican state to abolish capital punishment in more than 40 years

    True

    Nebraska’s Republican-Dominated Legislature Abolishes Death Penalty

    But is this also exactly true? The Nebraska unicameral legislature is officially non-partisan. I ask because I don’t know if this non-party status is purely a fiction or not.

    1. It’s purely a fiction. Surely you don’t believe that any politician in the US is capable of behaving in a nonpartisan way.

  11. Nebraska becomes first predominately Republican state to abolish capital punishment in more than 40 years

    True

    Nebraska’s Republican-Dominated Legislature Abolishes Death Penalty

    But is this also exactly true? The Nebraska unicameral legislature is officially non-partisan. I ask because I don’t know if this non-party status is purely a fiction or not.

    1. The unicameral is non-partisan, but voters know what party the candidates belong to. While the legislature will behave more conservatively, the lack of an official party affiliation does allow for some odd votes.

    2. We have those kinds of elections in Austin too. Non-partisan means “no libertarians allowed.”

  12. Good for Nebraska. Capital punishment is an abomination and a practice that no civilized society would practice.

      1. It’s cold blooded killing. IOW, murder. Deadly force is only justified to counter force. People being executed pose no immanent threat to anyone an killing them can’t be justified.

  13. I thought you guys were for individual rights and justice, so much for that. Like all those leftwing maggots, you are more concerned for the rights of criminals than those of their victims.

    1. Parody?

    2. I hope this is satire. But just in case:

      – convicts are individuals with rights too
      – innocent people are sometimes executed
      – victims have the same rights as anyone else. They don’t have a special right to have the government carry out revenge on their behalf or see their victimizer punished in any particular way. Those are positive rights which are not rights at all.

      1. What about the rights of citizens to be protected from sexual predator/sadist killers, the type who are incurable? How many times has a supposed life sentence really meant release after a long time and some commit crimes again? Examples Genene Anne Jones, killed 46 infants, released from a 99 year sentence, or many of the cases at this site, some releases from life sentences. http://www.wesleylowe.com/repoff.html What about subsequent murders in prison, sometimes of guards, like lifer Lemuel Smith strangling raping and killing a guard? In prison, it leaves them nothing to lose. Will we build Hannibal Lecter containment systems for the worst type?

        Until life without parole really means something, I think the death penalty threat is an important tool. States change laws and yesterday’s lifer is today’s freed-prisoner, due to compassion or overcrowding. I think that all of these elements should be thought through.

        1. What about the rights of citizens to be protected from sexual predator/sadist killers, the type who are incurable?

          Those rights are violated by laws which burden their ability to secure and defend themselves.

          1. Of course they are, but not every twisted bastard is caught in the act by an armed citizen. What will we do with the incorrigible when tracked down later? I have absolutely no faith that “life without parole” will be held up in court or by subsequent legislation.

        2. What a bunch of facile, apologetic bullshit.

          1. There is no right to “be protected”. This would be a positive “right”.

          2. I’m pretty sure Genene Anne Jones is not going to be poisoning any more infants, since she will never be employed as a nurse again.

          3. What about Lemuel Smith? It’s entirely impossible that he could ever have killed any guards while on death row, as opposed to the solitary confinement he presently finds himself in. Non sequitur alert.

          4. Fuck you, mendacious shitheel.

          1. Note: I intended a ‘?’ at the end of the second sentence in 3.

  14. Man, Tulpa is really starved for attention.

  15. Good for Nebraska but I believe that the death penalty is appropriate in certain circumstances. Ariel Castro for instance.

  16. I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h? Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link… Try it, you won’t regret it!……
    http://www.worktoday7.com

  17. I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h? Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link… Try it, you won’t regret it!……
    http://www.worktoday7.com

  18. Why is it obvious that the death penalty should be abolished? Because the criminal system isn’t perfect? We should abolish prison by that logic

    1. “I know you’ve been found guilty, but there are significant doubts as to that guilt. We’d love to keep you in prison until we sort it all out, but in the name of logical consistency we’re going to have to go ahead and execute you. So sorry!”

    2. Why is this so fucking hard to understand? You can let people out of prison. Yes, injustice has still been done to the person. But a whole lot less of it.

      You are right though in a way. If it were practical to do so, prisons should be abolished too. I think there are probably some people who are dangerous enough that imprisonment is necessary in a sense. But the vast majority of prisoners are not that and could probably be effectively punished in different ways.

      1. Why is this so fucking hard to understand?

        I don’t know… I know that if someone merely tries to rob me or assault me, I will do my very best to kill him on the spot without any trials or appeals- why does a convicted murderer deserve better?

  19. This is wonderful news! Texas can send its screwdriver-rape-muderers and marijuana kingpins to Nebraska and not bother with taxing us to support them on death row.

  20. My best friend’s step-mother makes $85 hourly on the computer . She has been fired from work for nine months but last month her pay check $17089 just working on the computer for a few hours. see it here
    =============================
    Try this site ????? http://www.buzzreport20.com

  21. It’s “predominantly” not “predominately.”

  22. The death penalty is often warranted and is totally justifiable regardless of whether it ever acts as a deterrant There are people whose actions have caused enomous grief, pain, etc and it would be travesty of justice to force society to pay for the continued existence of these people. I find it amazing that those who fight hard against the death penalty find no problems with prison murders
    of inmates.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.