Electric chair story grows legs

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The power of modern communication manifested itself again this week in a discussion over the dubious use of one of the older powers -- electricity.

Duane Tappe's offhanded remark to State Sen. Mark Christensen about obtaining Nebraska's old electric chair for a proposed rural electrification museum honoring the late U.S. Sen. George W. Norris is the case in point.

City Editor Lorri Sughroue had misgivings about playing up the request in her coverage of the weekly legislative teleconference, but after her editor headlined the story and put it on the Gazette Web site, the story, as they say, "grew legs."

At last check, the story about a small Southwest Nebraska town "abuzz" over prospects of displaying "Old Sparky" had been published in places like Baltimore, Kansas City and Texas, as well as moving over the nation Associated Press wire.

McCook residents might be surprised to learn that they are "abuzz." Other than Chamber of Commerce members who were present at the teleconference, and Gazette staffers who handled the story, we haven't heard any "buzz" from the general population.

But the reaction from the eastern end of the state was predictable.

Former State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha called the idea of displaying the electric chair "tastless" and "asinine." He said it "manifests vulgar insensitivity that borders on the obscene.

"It would turn a serious matter into a carnival sideshow designed to appease the most prurient interests," he told Paul Hammel of the World-Herald.

Fellow capital punishment opponent State Sen. Brenda Council of Omaha, however, said that while she didn't see "the glamour " of such a display, "I can't say that I don't hope it is removed from the correctional center."

Another opponent called for any proceeds from the display to go to the victims' families.

For his part, Tappe was "shocked" at the reaction to his informal request to Sen. Christensen, who actually asked the Department of Corrections for the chair a couple of years ago. Tappe said he checked with another proponent of the rural electrification museum, and was assured that, yes, they were still interested in obtaining the chair.

Do you favor bringing Nebraska's old electric chair to McCook for display?

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  • I guess I will have to settle for an 'after-buzz,' but yes, as it is a piece of history. People (eg. Ernie Chanbers)who are offended by the chair display simply need not go visit the chair, especially if it is plugged in (bad joke). I have my doubts that people would detour from the bi-ways specially to see it, but those who did see it would remember where they saw the 'chair.'

    -- Posted by Navyblue on Tue, Mar 24, 2009, at 6:22 PM
  • A part of history or not, I dont believe it is something that should be displayed. I think that capital punishment is necessary, and I dont care how it is done, and it should be done swiftly. And like I have said before, I worked death row in Nebraska and had lengthy conversations with these people, they should have caught a bullet in the back of the head on the way out of the court room. I have no tolerance for criminals, and no tolerance for the bleeding heart that allow these people to continually poison our society.

    Having said that, I still dont believe that sparky is something that should be on display. It was used to put people to death! I recognize that it is a necessary evil, but I am not proud of the fact that our society needs this type of thing for its own protection. Anybody that would travel out of thier way to see this thing is somebody that I would have no interest in meeting. I say we should keep it in Lincoln, and continue to use it. I dont care if it hurts, I have talked to the man on death row in Nebraska that killed his girlfriends toddler and fed the child to his rotweiler. I think he needs to feel the pain, he needs to feel the fear that comes with not knowing how the electricity will feel. And if Ernie Chambers and all of the other bleeding hearts are reluctant to flip the switch, I"ll do it.

    -- Posted by seentoomuch on Wed, Mar 25, 2009, at 8:06 AM
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