NEBRASKA (USA): COMMITTEE ADVANCES BILL TO REPEAL DEATH PENALTY
March 9, 2015: The Judiciary Committee voted 8-0 to abolish death penalty.
Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers' bill (LB268) would replace the sentence in capital murder cases with life without parole. All eight members of the Judiciary Committee voted to advance the bill today, including Sens. Chambers.
More than a dozen testifiers in support of the bill at the March 4 hearing cited the expense of the death penalty and its lack of deterrent effect. A number of family members of murder victims talked about how the death penalty divided those families and put them in purgatory as the murderers' cases dragged on without resolution. They said arbitrary distinctions are drawn in Nebraska courts between who gets the death penalty and who gets life in prison.
Tricia Moore, whose son Jerâ€™ray was murdered in Omaha in 2013, said Monday she is pleased by the committeeâ€™s vote. She was one of 25 Nebraska murder victimsâ€™ family members who submitted a letter last week to state legislators calling for an end to the death penalty. â€śWe are hopeful the bill will keep gaining support and we believe this vote makes a powerful statement that it will,â€ť Moore said.
Elle Hanson, who lost three loved ones to murder, said the death penalty was applied arbitrarily, "I want to share the pain and outrage I feel when I hear politicians say that we need the death penalty for the worst of the worst. This is an absurd notion. I guarantee you, each of our losses is the worst of the worst."
Jim Davidsaver, a retired Lincoln police captain, submitted testimony saying, "My professional experience has shown me that our stateâ€™s death penalty does not make us any safer. Its exorbitant cost actually detracts from programs that would promote the overall health, safety and welfare of our communities."
As of Monday, 11 senators had added their names to the bill, a number of them conservative Republicans. Based on that and the number of senators seeking information on death penalty repeal, "I think there's as good a chance to get it passed as there has ever been," Chambers said. Those questions from senators are about the practicality of a death sentence, he added. In 1979, a repeal bill passed but was vetoed by then-Gov. Charles Thone.
A similar bill by Chambers in 2013 passed 7-0 the Committee but brought only 28 votes to end a filibuster against it. Thirty-three votes were needed. But it was the first time since 1979 that a majority of the 49 lawmakers appeared willing to abolish the death penalty. Many senators now in the Legislature have not gone through a serious discussion of the death penalty, Chambers said.
Six senators who signed on to the bill are first-time senators. Chambers also has said he never counts on anything. "There's no way to predict with certitude what might happen when individuals are casting votes," he said Monday.
Even before the bill was voted out of committee, Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy had filed a motion to kill it, and Monday he filed four more amendments. It's also unknown whether Gov. Pete Ricketts would sign or veto the bill if passed.
Chambers named LB268 his priority bill. He said many people thought he might make his priority a bill (LB127) to prohibit mountain lion hunting. "To take any other bill as a priority over the death penalty bill would be diminishing the significance and importance of getting the state out of the killing business," he said. (Source: journalstar.com, 09/03/2015)