As the Nebraska Legislature continued debate on Senator Ernie Chambers bill, LB 543 to replace the death penalty with life without parole, opponents of repeal mounted a filibuster in an attempt to stop a vote from being taken. The debate lasted all day Monday and an additional 3 hours on Tuesday until a cloture motion was called and defeated by a 28-21 vote, needing 33 to pass. It is unlikely the bill will be placed on the agenda again this session.
“The death penalty in Nebraska has been a colossal failure, and the lawmakers and citizens of our state now recognize the inevitable demise of this broken system,” said Stacy Anderson, Executive Director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. “Today’s filibuster is a desperate, last ditch effort to ignore the writing on the wall and delay the end of this failed public policy. But it is just delay, because the death penalty is coming to an end in our state and everyone knows it.”
This stall tactic comes less than two weeks after Maryland became the sixth state in six years – and the 18th overall – to end its death penalty. Nationally and across Nebraska, support for repeal has been growing across the political and ideological spectrum. In the last month alone several editorials and op-eds, including some in Nebraska, have recognized the growing support for repeal among conservatives.
“During the debate many conservative and democratic legislators alike hammered the point that the death penalty is arbitrary and unfair, costs too much, risks executing an innocent person, and fails the families of victims, who are forced to endure years of trials and unwanted media attention.”
Senator Colby Coash of Lincoln, a member of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, was pleased to see so many of his conservative colleagues speak in support the repeal bill. “Last week when we debated the budget, we promised we’d cut government programs that do not work,” he said. “The death penalty is just that – a failed, bloated government program that does not serve the people of Nebraska, and it deserves to be voted on by the full legislature.”
Nebraska officials have been scrambling to find ways to carry out an execution since 2008, when the State Supreme Court overturned the use of the electric chair. Repeated legal challenges, scandals over Nebraska’s potentially illegal purchase of foreign lethal injection drugs, and drug recalls and expirations, have left the state with no way to carry out an execution in the near term.
“It’s ludicrous that in our unstable economy, our state has spent five years essentially chasing its tail and getting no where,” said Anderson. “This waste and inefficiency is characteristic of the entire death penalty. It’s time for the lawmakers of our state to say enough is enough and take this to a vote.”