With momentum for ending the death penalty building nationwide, Nebraska is fighting to join the groundswell. During the 2013 legislative session, Nebraska had enough legislative votes to end the state’s death penalty, but a filibuster prevented a floor vote. Now, Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and our supporters face the battle to win enough legislators to our side to win a vote and override an almost certain governor’s veto. It’s an uphill battle, but we have powerful support on our side.
Sister Helen Prejean visited rural areas of our state, where votes are crucial, in September, and drew large crowds in places where she said, “I’ve never seen so many cornfields!” Bud Welch spoke eloquently of forgiveness and reconciliation at our annual event at Creighton University’s Harper Center. Curtis McCarty, who was exonerated after nearly two decades on Oklahoma’s death row, has launched a statewide speaking tour with us in November, recounting his moving tale of wrongful conviction and narrow escape from execution. We have redoubled our efforts to collect citizens’ signatures on appeals to legislators, and we never miss an opportunity to speak or exhibit at events, from the League of Women Voters’ meetings to college classrooms and the statewide Catholic pro-life conference.
We’ve had tremendous help from our faith-based supporters, be it from the Notre Dame Sisters or the United Methodist Church opening their doors for events statewide, and many more. Nebraska presently has 11 men on death row, but we have not had an execution since 1997, prompting Sister Helen to say, “Nebraska doesn’t want or deserve a death penalty.” Like many states, Nebraska has experienced difficulties procuring the drugs necessary for our drug protocol. However, despite growing legislative dissatisfaction with the death penalty, strong pockets of resistance to ending it remain. With hope in the good common sense and basic decency of Nebraskans, we look forward to the 2014 legislative session, where the bill has carried over and where we hope to finish this vital work of adding Nebraska to the ranks of states ending the death penalty.
This article was first featured in the November 2013 CMN Newsletter.