27 May 2015

Nebraska votes to abolish death penalty

The Nebraska legislature voted 30-19 on Wednesday afternoon to override a veto by Republican Governor Pete Ricketts. The motion gained the support of a coalition of conservatives opposing capital punishment to meet the required threshold of 30 votes.

Nebraska is the 19th state in America to abolish the death penalty, but its decision is notable because Nebraska is the first Republican state to ban capital punishment since North Dakota in 1973.

There are currently 10 inmates on Nebraska’s death row – the 11th died earlier this week. The state has not executed anyone since 1997.

Marc Hyden, a spokesman for Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty told Channel 4 News: “I’ve been travelling across the United States, speaking to college groups, to tea party groups, and conservatives are increasingly uncomfortable with the death penalty system.

“It is not representative of their values, and it is a government programme that fails to produce any tangible benefits. They are uncomfortable with the complexity of the system, and it doesn’t deter crime — it’s a broken government programme.”

“Each person is led to opposition for a multitude of reasons, but I think why conservatives are increasingly opposing it – I see policies through a framework, what I call a conservative litmus test.

“There are a few things to make a policy conservative – it has to be pro-life – the death penalty is not pro-life, it actually risks innocent lives. Is it fiscally responsible? No, it has led to tax increases in Nebraska, in order to pay for death trials, so it is not responsible.

“Lastly, a conservative policy has to fit in with framework of limited government – the death penalty is a broken government program.”

The vote in Nebraska reflects the complex debate across the US about the use of lethal injections to execute prisoners on death row. A number of high-profile botched executions have led to the Supreme Court hearing about the constitutionality of a lethal injection procedure. A decision is expected by the end of next month on whether a combination of lethal drugs constitutes a cruel and unusual punishment.

Shari Silberstein, executive director of the non-partisan campaigning organisation Equal Justice USA said: “Nebraska’s vote marks the end of the death penalty in the United States.

“Americans have been moving away from executions for more than ten years, but now we have a red state turning that trend into law for the first time in 40 years. Nebraska has shown the nation what happens when you put aside partisan politics and embrace simple common sense.”

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