Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Nebraska Lawmakers Vote To Abolish Death Penalty With Veto-Proof Majority

Seven years ago I predicted that New Jersey's legislative repeal of capital punishment would be a herald of change.  At a one day symposium I organized (proceedings here,  key resources here) we heard from prosecutors, defenders, legislators, the Governor, and the citizen group which mobilized to bring about the change.  It was a great example of the dynamic relationships between courts, elected officials, and citizens.  "Legislation, litigation, reflection, and repeal" was the title.  The theme was "justice cools the fierce glow of passion by passing it through reflection".  That is what has happened in Nebraska, which will soon merit the illumination of the colosseum in Rome, as did New Jersey in December 2007.
As is now well known we hold 25% of the world's prisoners.  That is the legacy of slavery and racism.  Movements like Right on Crime reflect a national move away from mass incarceration - too little, and late - but important and necessary if we are every to overcome our history.  - gwc

Nebraska Lawmakers Vote To Abolish Death Penalty With Veto-Proof Majority: LINCOLN, Neb. (AP)
by Grant Schulte
— Nebraska lawmakers gave final approval on Wednesday to a bill abolishing the death penalty that would make it the first conservative state to do so since 1973 if the measure becomes law. The vote margin in the unicameral Legislature was more than enough to override a promised veto from Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, a staunch supporter of capital punishment, who said that it was a "dark day" for public safety. "Nebraska has a chance to step into history — the right side of history — to take a step that will be beneficial toward the advancement of a civilized society," said Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, an independent who has fought for four decades to the end the death penalty. The Nebraska vote marks a shift in the national debate because it was bolstered by conservatives who oppose the death penalty for religious reasons, cast it as a waste of taxpayer money and question whether government can be trusted to manage it. Traditionally, law-and-order conservatives in the United States have stood among the strongest supporters of the ultimate punishment. Nebraska hasn't executed a prisoner since 1997, and some lawmakers have argued that constant legal challenges will prevent the state from doing so again."

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