Thursday, May 28, 2015

Nebraska legislature votes to end death penalty

How Nebraska Abolished the Death Penalty - The Atlantic - Russell Berman:

May 27, 2015 - "Nebraska on Wednesday became the first conservative state in more than four decades to repeal the death penalty. Its legislature, officially non-partisan but dominated by Republicans, voted by the narrowest of possible margins to override a veto by Governor Pete Ricketts, and enact a law scrapping a punishment that the state has struggled to carry out....

"In the end, a growing coalition of liberals, religious groups, and libertarian-minded conservatives overcame more traditional tough-on-crime Republicans who saw the death penalty as the appropriate, ultimate punishment for murder. Underlying that ideological debate, however, was a far more pragmatic consideration. Nebraska has been unable to kill any of the murderers sentenced to death by its legal system since 1997.... That failure has given momentum to opponents of capital punishment, including a new group of conservatives that has invoked fiscal and religious arguments to woo right-leaning legislators to their side.

"'It’s not just about the procurement of drugs,” said Marc Hyden of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, an organization that sprouted up in Montana several years ago and has since expanded nationally. 'It’s not pro-life because it risks innocent life. It’s not fiscally responsible because it costs millions more dollars than life without parole.'

"Yet Nebraska's bumbling and occasionally shady attempts to carry out death sentences — along with incidents in neighboring states like the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma — have given rise to another argument that sells among conservatives: the death penalty is just another example of government run amok.

"'At the end of the day, this is just another big government program that’s really dangerous and expensive but doesn’t achieve any of its goals,' Hyden told me, summarizing his pitch to Republicans. 'They don’t need to ask themselves, "Do some people deserve to die?" The question they need to ask themselves is, do they trust an error-prone government to fairly, efficiently and properly administer a program that metes out death to its citizens? I think the answer to that is a resounding no'...

"'This has been a slow, steady move toward repeal,' said Stacy Anderson, executive director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Danielle Conrad, executive director of the state chapter of the ACLU, cited the state’s unicameral, non-partisan legislature — unique in the U.S. — and a recent term-limits law that facilitated the election of more libertarian-leaning senators in recent years."

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