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This past week, the Legislature held the final round of debate over one of the toughest issues lawmakers face: the death penalty. While dealing with an issue that involves so much sorrow for many families, lawmakers must take many viewpoints and facts into account when arriving at a decision. Many of you have contacted my office via email, phone, and mail to share heart-felt opinions both against and in support of the death penalty. Thank you for contacting our office. Your input truly has an impact on the decisions that we make in the Legislature.
During my conversations with those who are in support of keeping the death penalty, many people expressed frustration related to the lengthy appeals process that is the norm when dealing with death penalty cases. This is certainly one of the major problems within our broken capital punishment system. Many constituents shared the common opinion that the problem could be fixed by speeding up the appeals process through our judicial system. Though I wish there were a quick fix, this is not a viable solution to our problem. The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to due process in civil and criminal proceedings. This protects the defendants’ rights to work within the system and appeal court decisions. We can lower Nebraska’s number of lengthy appeals by sentencing criminals to life in prison without the possibility of parole instead of death. Nationally, the average defendant sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole files for an appeal 1.5 times, compared to the 7 appeals for which the average death row inmate files.
I have also heard from many people that support repealing the death penalty. Some of the most important perspectives to consider are those of the victims’ families that have endured this lengthy appeals process. Every time a case is appealed, the families often attend the trial and are forced to face their loved one’s murderer once again. Reliving this past trauma makes it very difficult to finally move on. It is unfair to put them through this decades-long process. This is especially true because the state does not possess the ability to carry out executions, so the criminal will just remain on death row for years. By sentencing criminals to life in prison without the possibility of parole, we are allowing the victims’ families to achieve closure.
As a conservative, I am committed to protecting life and getting rid of government waste. I have always stood as a strong pro-life advocate. I truly believe that life begins at conception and should end at natural death. Also, as I wrote in one of my March editorials, the state has spent approximately $100 million on death penalty related cases since 1976, but has only executed three people. It is evident that the state of Nebraska cannot enforce the death penalty in a prompt manner and it is time to look at other avenues. For all of these reasons, I will continue to support the repeal of the death penalty in the state of Nebraska.
As always, I am honored by the faith that you, the voters of District 24, have placed in me. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. You may continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman For Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature. My office in the State Capitol is Room 1115, which I share with my colleague Senator Bob Hilkemann from Omaha. Stop by anytime. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Kenny Zoeller, my Legislative Aide, and Katie Quintero, my Administrative Aide, are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address your concerns, thoughts, and needs.
Senator Mark Kolterman