Voters should get direct say in death penalty

Thursday, June 11, 2015

We're not surprised a petition drive to reinstate the death penalty in Nebraska is gaining steam.

Nebraska lawmakers as a whole weren't all that convinced of their action to repeal it themselves, overriding Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto by the bare minimum of votes.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty has to gather about 57,000 signatures of registered voters to put the law on the ballot and 115,000 to suspend the law until voters have a chance to decide in November 2016. They also need signatures from at least 5 percent of the registered voters in 38 of Nebraska's 93 counties.

There are plenty of other obstacles to capital punishment returning to Nebraska, however.

It's been nearly 20 years since the last execution was carried out, Robert Williams in 1997. Before that, John Joubert in 1996 and it was Harold Otey in 1994, more than 30 years after the previous one.

No executions have been carried out since the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the electric chair was cruel and unusual punishment in 2008.

Nebraska has had trouble getting execution drugs in a timely manner, and currently needs two drugs, one of which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration won't let us import.

And, pro-death penalty petition circulators probably won't be the only ones trying to sway voters.

Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty vow to play an active part in the public debate, and ACLU of Nebraska plans to keep an eye on the opposition's circulators to make sure laws are followed.

Expect the issue to come up when you're taking part in community celebrations, parades, festivals, fairs and outdoor concerts this summer.

If you haven't already formed an opinion on capital punishment, you should have plenty of opportunity in the coming months.

Is the death penalty a real deterrent?

Is the death penalty an appropriate means of administering justice?

Should Nebraska abandon the death penalty just because it has difficulty carrying it out?

They're all profound questions and it's appropriate that voters have a say in providing the answers.

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  • Why? We elect the Governor and the State Senators to make legislation. Yes, this issue has folks on both sides talking but so has other issues. If voters need to decide this issue where does it stop? Raising the gas tax? Illegal individuals getting a drivers permit? Trapping in ditches? Wil each issue be on the ballot? Where does it stop?

    -- Posted by dennis on Thu, Jun 11, 2015, at 5:23 PM
  • With the state of Nebraska having a Unicameral, we the citizens are the second governing body of legislation to counter balance the actions of the Unicameral. Addressing LB 268, if we the citizens of Nebraska disagree with the newly enacted law we have the right to counterbalance the Unicameral. In regard to the Referendum Petition to Repeal LB 268 it is to let us have the opportunity to vote on a repeal and/or to suspend the law until the Petition has been voted on. It is not a Petition as to whether or not you support the death penalty or oppose it. It's just reinstating our right to vote on and/or suspend the law until then. If you believe in your right to vote, sign the Petition. It's all about our rights as the citizens of Nebraska. Thank you for reading.

    -- Posted by MHS Grad 1980 on Sat, Jun 13, 2015, at 12:04 PM
  • Petitions will be in McCook this coming Monday, June 22nd for signatures. We need just over 1000 signatures from Red Willow County. I will be on the West side of Norris Avenue between C & D Streets. I will be wearing a bright yellow t-shirt and will be there between 6:30 a.m. and noon. See you then, Ron.

    -- Posted by MHS Grad 1980 on Fri, Jun 19, 2015, at 1:04 PM
  • Ron, will you and those that sign also be on the list to inject the needle in the arm of the person convicted to die?

    -- Posted by dennis on Fri, Jun 19, 2015, at 4:51 PM
  • Dennis - I cannot speak for others but as for myself, yes. I would not have any problem putting a needle in someone's arm that is truly the worst of the worst of those convicted of their crime here in our state. I have now politely answered your question. Therefore, I will not be debating this issue with you any further. I am truly fine with your right not to sign the petition but I am a strong believer in everyone's right to sign if they should wish.

    -- Posted by MHS Grad 1980 on Fri, Jun 19, 2015, at 9:14 PM
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