Bill to abolish death penalty laid over

Senators began debating a bill on general file Jan. 26 that would repeal Nebraska’s death penalty.

LB276, introduced by Omaha Sen. Brenda Council, would replace death penalty provisions with the sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

The bill also would allow the court to require that payment be made to a victim’s estate for any pain and suffering to the victim caused by the offender.

The criminal justice system is not an infallible system—mistakes are made, Council said.

“[Nebraska] certainly has cases where innocent people have been wrongfully convicted and the death penalty was used to accomplish those convictions,” she said.

Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash spoke in support of the bill. He said families are given false hope because death sentences are appealed so often that they are rarely carried out. The spotlight that is given to the convicted murderers and their death sentence overshadows the victims and their families, he said.

“We will talk about the murderers and their crimes and in the meantime, the victims of these crimes wait for justice that will never come.” Coash said. “I do not believe we will execute another person in this state, whether this bill becomes law or not.”

Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill also supported the bill, saying it recognizes the victims.

“The one thing that is wonderful about the bill is that it helps the victims with the pain and suffering that come from the loss of a loved one,” McGill said. “This [bill] could help the victims move forward in life instead of rehashing the details of what happened.”

Norfolk Sen. Mike Flood opposed the bill, saying that retribution is a part of the criminal process.

If there is not retribution for the most horrible acts, Flood asked, then who will believe in the law?

“This is a system that embraces justice and evidence so that citizens do not take the law into their own hands,” he said.

Omaha Sen. John Nelson also opposed the bill, saying the court system does not give the death penalty lightly.

Those who qualify for a death sentence receive a two-phase trial, Nelson said, so there is a subjective weight applied in determining their punishment.

Council filed a motion to indefinitely postpone the bill Jan. 27 and elected to lay over LB276 until next session.

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