NEBRASKA (USA). STATE COURT SAYS ELECTRIC CHAIR UNCONSTITUTIONAL
February 8, 2008: The Nebraska Supreme Court struck down the state's sole means of execution, ruling that electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment.
The landmark ruling is likely a fatal blow to a means of execution that has teetered in the courts for years and been recognized by other states as legally vulnerable. Nebraska was the only state in the country with the electric chair as its sole means of execution.
The high court made the ruling in the case of Raymond Mata Jr., convicted for the 1999 kidnapping and killing of 3-year-old Adam Gomez.
In its ruling, the high court said the evidence shows that electrocution inflicts "intense pain and agonizing suffering" and that "(electrocution) has proven itself to be a dinosaur more befitting the laboratory of Baron Frankenstein than the death chamber" of state prisons.
The court added that the Legislature may vote to have a death penalty, just not one that offends constitutional rights.
Chief Justice Mike Heavican filed a lone dissent, disagreeing that electrocution is "cruel and unusual."
The speaker of the Legislature, Mike Flood, who supports the death penalty, said it will be very difficult to approve a replacement for electrocution this late in the legislative session. A legislative committee could introduce a bill to replace electrocution, but that would take a three-fifths vote of the Legislature, Flood said.
Last year, a bill to repeal the death penalty failed after first-round debate by just 1 vote. (Sources: Fox News, WOWT News, 08/02/2008)