The One Hundred Fourth Legislature, First Session, completed work today, one day short of the allowed 90 days. For new and experienced senators and staff, it was historical and controversial.
There will be few readers of this column who are not aware of LB 268, to replace death penalty provisions with a life sentence.
I voted to advance LB 268 through three rounds of debate. A fourth vote was required to override Governor Rickett’s veto. My earlier thoughts on this issue are part of this column, printed April 17th, 2015.
My resolve to vote with the majority of the body was sorely tested as the day became a reality. My staff, along with all others in the building, had their hands full trying to keep track of the numerous emails and phone calls as well as personal visits to the office. The attorney general and the governor both came to my office. They pled for four more years to make the death penalty work.
I had to weigh my constituents’ wishes with facts about the efficacy of the death penalty as it was or was not being administered in Nebraska. The last use of the death penalty, by electrocution, was 1997. Eleven men remained on death row, with one dying last weekend. Those ten will now, according to prison officials, be returned to non-segregated housing in the prison system. What will happen to their sentences remains in the legal system.
My commitment to repealing the death penalty still stems from basic facts contained in these two articles:
Some have said repealing the death penalty makes Nebraska soft on crime. A retired Lincoln police captain is quoted as saying, “it means we are smart on crime.” He also said we should invest the money wasted on the death penalty in tools our law enforcement officers really need.
The vote was not Republican, Democrat, conservative, or liberal. It was a vote to do the right thing. The repeal has been introduced since 1973. There may not be another chance. I stand by my vote.