NOT SO FAST: Nebraska Restores Death Penalty

NOT SO FAST: Nebraska Restores Death Penalty

By Casey Harper

A group of pro death penalty activists say they have obtained more than 150,000 signatures supporting the reinstatement of the death penalty in Nebraska. As a result, the death penalty will likely remain in place until the issue can be put on the ballot for a statewide vote in 2016.

Nebraska’s legislature abolished the death penalty in May with a 30-19 vote, overriding the governor’s veto. The decision has angered some, though, who claim they have collected 166,692 signatures, much more than the 57,000 necessary to get the issue on a statewide ballot vote.

The process of verifying the signatures could take 40 days. If the signatures are valid, the legislatures repeal will be put on hold until a vote can be taken in November 2016. The repeal was set to go into effect Sunday, but the pro death penalty activists got the signatures in just in time.

Even if the death penalty is upheld, however, the state has no way of executing the 10 men on death row. Because of various laws and international boycotts, Nebraska has been unable to obtain the drugs necessary to execute the death row inmates.

In fact, Nebraska hasn’t executed anyone since 1997. This impotence has been a major argument for anti-death penalty activists.

“No matter how much money Governor Ricketts and his family spend on this referendum, it does not change the basic fact that they are trying to sell Nebraskans a lemon – a government program plagued by wrongful convictions, high costs, and long delays,” Marc Hyden, National Coordinator, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, said in a statement.

Maryland was the last state to abolish the death penalty, which happened in 2013. Capital punishment is now legal in 32 states.

“Nebraskans sent a strong message about crime and punishment in our state by signing this petition in extraordinary numbers,” said state treasurer and former attorney general Don Stenberg, a co-chair of the petition drive, told the Associated Press.

Hyden’s group spearheaded the original effort to have the penalty overturned. He said they will be campaigning across the state to convince voters the death penalty should stay dead.

“The broken nature of the death penalty has been on full display this summer with the ongoing fiasco surrounding the Governor’s attempts to illegally import lethal injection drugs from overseas,” Hyden added. “Despite repeated promises, the Governor has failed to obtain the drugs needed to carry out even one execution. The Governor has given Nebraskans zero reason to believe that he can fix the state’s irreparably broken death penalty.”

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