Voters spoke forcefully on death penalty

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The voters have spoken.

They wanted the death penalty back, and they were willing to go over the heads of the Legislature to do so.

Perhaps turnabout's fair play, since the Legislature went over the head of a veto by Gov. Pete Ricketts to abolish capital punishment in the state.

Nearly 60 percent voted to repeal LB 286, compared to just over 40 percent to retain the law ending the death penalty.

There was some resentment over the governor using his financial resources to reinstate the death penalty, contributing $300,000 to the Nebraskans for the Death Penalty campaign, which raised some $1.3 million for its efforts.

It was outspent by an opposition group, however, which received nearly $2.7 million to make its point to Nebraska voters.

Death penalty opponents see capital punishment as a broken system in Nebraska, where the last execution was carried out by electric chair in 1997.

We switched to a three-drug execution cocktail, but it's never been used. We paid $54,400 for a couple of the required drugs, but they were never received because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned their import.

Opponents feel the state isn't competent to administer the death penalty fairly, and the system truly is broken.

The argument that law enforcement still needs the ultimate penalty as bargaining in murder trails carried the day. The arguments that it could deter violence by inmates already serving life terms and helps provide a degree of safety for officers also carried some weight.

We received feedback from more than one reader that an article by the Nebraska News Service, listing each death row inmate in the state and the reasons they were sentenced, persuaded them to vote to repeal the law that eliminated the death penalty.

The Nebraska News Service is staffed by student reporters at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who provide an alternative source of news about Nebraska government.

We've used many of their stories for new perspectives on state news, and they can be proud that they are providing an important service to Nebraska voters.

If and when executions resume in the Cornhusker state, it will be because its citizens want them to.

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