Death Penalty Under Discussion Again

Nebraska’s death penalty is facing fresh scrutiny from lawmakers after state officials resumed executions last year for the first time since 1997.  Members of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee heard public input Thursday on three bills related to capital punishment.

One measure by state Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks would prohibit prison officials from blocking witness views of an execution, as they did for 14 minutes last year when Carey Dean Moore was killed by lethal injection.

“It’s clear as day to me that we didn’t have transparency in the last execution, and we failed to live up to national and international transparency standards.”

Pansing Brooks said her bill, LB 238, would prevent questions like those that arose after the recent execution of Carrie Dean Moore.

“There were 14 minutes during the last execution where those permitted and required to view the execution, under the execution protocol, were blocked from seeing what happened during the key moments of that execution.”

A second bill by Sen. Adam Morfeld would create an advisory council to evaluate the current defense system in Nebraska for capital punishment cases and see whether improvements are needed.

“If we’re going to have a death penalty, and it’s going to be used, it’s imperative that our capital defense system is meeting best practices.”

Morfeld said the Death Penalty Defense Standards Advisory Council, a group of attornies,  would make sure Nebraska follows national guidelines for giving and carrying out death sentences.

“If the State wishes to have an active death penalty, the State must be prepared to pass clear, written guidelines, in State statute or regulation, to insure justice is being met.”

Morfeld said having such a Council would also insure that defendants rights are followed, and would protect the state and counties from lawsuits over ineffective counsel.

Sen. Ernie Chambers also presented the committee with a bill to abolish capital punishment, as he has done more than 40 times while in office.

Related Background:  Convicted Killer Moore Executed By Lethal Injection