Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Nebraska ACLU Asks For Your Action in Death Penalty Debate

by Kyle Michaelis
After the near success of a bill repealing capital punishment in Nebraska, efforts are currently under way to add a "future dangerousness" requirement limiting execution to convicted first-degree murderers who pose "a present and substantial risk to the lives of others that cannot reasonably and effectively be controlled by institutional security measures."

Regardless of where you stand on the ultimate issue, this would be a change for the better. So, here's your call to action from the Nebraska ACLU in support of the amended LB 377:
Dear ACLU of Nebraska Members and Friends,

Your call today could make a big difference for the death penalty in Nebraska. On Wednesday or Thursday, the Nebraska legislature will be voting on a bill to significantly limit the application of the death penalty in Nebraska.

This is very significant news: we were most disappointed when the bill to outright abolish the death penalty failed by one vote. But this also shows how close we came when people like you called our state legislators. Now, we have a second chance and your call is critical to win!

We need your phone calls right away in support of LB 377 as amended.

Please call your Nebraska state senator. Or, look up your Nebraska state senator here:

You no doubt have your own way of explaining why the death penalty should be used more sparingly in Nebraska. Just in case, here are some talking points to help with your phone call:

* This amendment creates an appropriate mechanism to assure that only truly dangerous people face the possibility of execution by requiring a determination by the fact finder.

* Adding this component to Nebraska law is not a unique or unheard-of step: Of the 38 states that allow the death penalty, nine states currently include "future dangerousness" as an element to be considered among other aggravating factors.

* The Baldus study, done by the Legislature just a couple of years ago, showed that the death penalty is applied unfairly in Nebraska. Socio-economic status, race and geographic location all affect who gets life and who gets death.

Help us make the most of this second chance! It's imperative that you call your senator and let him/her know that you support LB 377 as amended. Recent Nebraska poll results support this approach!

Please call your senator on as soon as possible. Time is of the essence and there’s no time to wait.

ACLU Nebraska is tracking what responses citizens get to their phone calls, so please call or email us to "report back" on how your call was received. Report your call by calling (402) 476-8091 or send an email to info@aclunebraska.org.

Thank you for your help!


Laurel S. Marsh
Executive Director
ACLU Nebraska

P.S. Please pass this email on to friends and family -- we must send a strong message to the Nebraska Legislature today and tomorrow! Thank you for all your efforts!
My opposition to Nebraska's death penalty is not for ideological reasons. It's simply a disaster by any measure of fairness, justice, or practicality. As such, I'm proud to join ACLU Nebraska in urging support for LB 377.

Two weeks ago, State Sen. Ernie Chambers said on the floor of the Legislature that his only reason for supporting this reconfigured proposal changing Nebraska's sentencing procedures rather than eliminating the death penalty completely was to stop the execution of Carey Dean Moore. But, this is not about one convicted murderer's life or one senator's political agenda. This is a common sense reform to an unprincipled and out-of-control justice system.

Gov. Dave Heineman has called this new proposal "a back-door attempt to repeal the death penalty." Promising a veto that would require 30 senators to over-ride, Heineman here displays the darkest side of his political agenda by purposefully blinding himself to the absurdities and outrages of Nebraska's current policy.

Without any regard for truth, he has politicized this issue even worse than the activists opposed to the death penalty - except Dave Heineman's is an extremism of death. He is doing everything in his power to see that the state not only has the power to kill but also uses it as frequently as possible - with the loosest, most flexible standards.

Although a handful of senators might see this as a stepping stone towards outright repeal, the vast majority only want to see a more just system that might actually protect the conscience and humanity of the people of Nebraska.

Of Heineman, I must say that it's a miserable man with some very warped priorities who clings to the death penalty for reasons of politics and popularity. Sadly, there doesn't appear to be any reaching Heineman. He's got the polling numbers he wants, so Nebraska's king of the status quo doesn't need the facts.

LB 377 is going to need 30 votes in the Nebraska Legislature, and it needs your help to get them. Please do what you can.

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