Breaking news from Lincoln, Nebraska, as the New York Times (and everybody else) reports:
Nebraska on Wednesday became the first conservative state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty, with lawmakers defying their Republican governor, Pete Ricketts, a staunch supporter of capital punishment who had lobbied vigorously against banning it.
By a 30 to 19 vote that cut across party lines, the Legislature overrode the governor’s veto on Tuesday of a bill repealing the state’s death penalty law. The measure garnered just enough votes to overcome the veto…
…Though it formally considers itself nonpartisan, the Nebraska Legislature is dominated by Republicans. Republican legislators who have voted in favor of abolition said they believed the death penalty was inefficient, expensive and out of place with their party’s values. Other lawmakers cited religious or moral reasons for their support of the death penalty ban. Eighteen states and Washington, D.C., have banned the death penalty.
Wow. So, there you go.
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At least the anti-choice conservatives who voted for this can claim some degree of consistency: if a fertilized egg is a human being in their book deserving of legal protection, they are now extending legal protection to the lives of actual human beings.
Most supported it for sensible rather than emotional reasons. The cost is crazy compared to keeping someone in prison for life, it's administered without any consistency or fairness, DNA has exonerated so many people on death row it's a statistical certainty that innocents have been executed in the past and it's getting impossible to find sources for the drugs. I applaud them.
Meanwhile, here in Colorado, prosecutors claim they need the death penalty for bargaining purposes. Well, in the Holmes case a deal was offered long ago …. life without parole in exchange for a guilty plea, exactly the kind of bargain they say they need the death penalty for. They rejected it anyway. Now we're spending millions and months to present all the forensic evidence involved in such a mass murder to first prove something that has never been in doubt; that Holmes is the killer, and only then argue about his sanity. If he's found not guilty by reason of insanity (granted,not much chance of that), there is no guarantee that he won't be out on streets again someday, something that was never going to happen if the plea deal to spare his life had been accepted.
And closure? Seriously? Remember the Chuck E Cheese murders? Nathan Dunlap was convicted of the 1993 killings and sentenced to death in 1996 and has yet to be executed almost 20 years later, more than 20 years after the crime. It's still hanging over the heads of the victims' loved ones. And what if he had been executed by now? Would that have tied it all up neatly with string to be put away forever? All better now? "Closure" is just so much meaningless psycho babble but maybe it would bring more peace of mind to know that a decision had been reached and the process was over, something that life without parole would accomplish instead of a death sentence with 20 years or more of appeals and delays and the process not being over at all.
How about the argument that we need it as a deterrent? Not a scrap of evidence suggests it actually functions as any such thing. So good for the conservatives of Nebraska in choosing to reject the whole barbaric, expensive mess in favor of joining the rest of the civilized world. To say that the company the US keeps in clinging to this anachronistic piece of barbarism is a disgrace is putting it very, very mildly.
For a bedrock conservative state, the Nebraska Unicameral has a very long history of remarkable sanity . . .