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An eye for an eye?
Bethany Shinn
Antelope Staff

Gurneys, like the one above, are used for government sanctioned executions by lethal injection, the death penalty sentence in Nebraska.
Brenda Council
“We should not wait until we are the odd state out before repealing the death penalty. Instead, we should be in the forefront of this humanitarian effort.” Brenda Council Nebraska Legislator who proposed LB276

Death penalty debate continues though an execution now set

 


Cause for concern

The Biblical adage about "punishment fitting the crime" is being challenged by conscious-ridden Nebraskans who oppose capital punishment.

 

Concerns are rising as legislatures continue to bring capital punishment in Nebraska under scrutiny.  

Much of this scrutiny began when Nebraska made national news in 2007 when they replaced death by electric chair to death by lethal injection.

Some of the same major players are still involved in the debate.

On March 4, the Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a bill that is aimed to replace the death penalty sentence to life without the possibility of parole.    

Omaha Sen. Brenda Council introduced LB276, which she believes would end the debate about whether the death penalty is humane and constitutional. 

 

“We should not wait until we are the odd state out before repealing the death penalty, “ Council said.  “Instead, we should be in the forefront of this humanitarian movement.”  

To date, 16 states have repealed their death penalty legislation.  In 2007, Nebraska’s unicameral legislature came within one vote of doing away with the death penalty entirely. 

Council needed 25 votes to pass this bill.  “Because LB 276 is not a priority bill, it is unlikely to see discussion this year and will likely be pushed until next year,”

 

Council said. Though the bill may be delayed, the debate is still fresh on minds across the state. 

Debate foreseen

Given Nebraska’s known conservative policy, the odds of this bill moving on in the legislature look meager. 

 

“Many would say it is not worthwhile proposing a bill like this, simply because it has such a slim change of being successful. 

 

However, I think it is always important to raise questions about existing practices and the introduction of such a bill does serve that purpose,”

 

said Dr. John Anderson, a political science instructor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Opponents counter that argument about LB276 saying that abolishing the death penalty and replacing it with a life sentence could simply shift costs, which in-turn would counteract the goal of the bill.  

They also argue that because it takes 16 years, on average, in Nebraska for an inmate to be put to death after receiving a death sentence, capital punishment has become ineffective and a waste of money.

According to a recently issued report from the Kansas Legislature, who performed in-depth studies towards the subject, the average cost of imposing the death penalty is $1.9 million more per inmate than life imprisonment. 

 

Their studies also concluded that the estimated cost of a death penalty case was 70 percent more than the cost of a comparable non-death penalty case. 

Senator Mike Gloor of Grand Island who has a background in hospital administration and supports capital punishment argued, “The death penalty has never been about dollars to me.” Gloor went on to say,

 

“There will be considerable health care costs for the individuals as they live out their lives in our prisons.”

“We don’t really know the efficacy of maintaining the death penalty. Now is the time to end state-sanctioned homicide in Nebraska,” Council said.  

“I don’t think Nebraska will repeal the death penalty any time in the immediate future.  

 

For the most part, Nebraskans believe in an “eye for an eye” and I don’t think that is going to change much.  

 

Of course, as the state changes with newer generations becoming voters and recent immigrants there may be some changes coming,” Anderson said.

 

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