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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Bill would let Nebraska prison officials hide identities of lethal injection suppliers

Nebraska Governor (R) Pete Ricketts
Nebraska Governor (R) Pete Ricketts: "I will make every effort to proceed
with the executions of the 10 men on Nebraska's death row."
Nebraska prison officials would be allowed to hide the identities of their lethal injection suppliers under a proposal introduced Wednesday on the final day of bill introduction in the state Legislature.

The bill would allow authorities to withhold any information "reasonably calculated to lead to the identity" of an entity or individual that "manufactures, supplies, compounds or prescribes" drugs used to carry out an execution.

Sen. John Kuehn of Heartwell, who sponsored Legislative Bill 661, said it's the Legislature's responsibility to comply with the majority of Nebraska voters who cast ballots in favor of capital punishment in November. He suggested providing confidentiality to drug makers would remove one of the obstacles that makes capital punishment dysfunctional.

Most of the leading death penalty states shield the identities of the lethal drug suppliers, saying the information is used by capital punishment opponents to pressure suppliers not to make or sell the drugs for executions.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a strong supporter of the death penalty, is pursuing changes to the state's lethal injection protocol that include similar secrecy provisions. The governor also wants to withhold the type of drug the state plans to use until 60 days before the attorney general asks the Nebraska Supreme Court for a death warrant.

Kuehn's 2-page bill addresses no other issues except for shielding the identity of the drug supplier. He said Wednesday that Ricketts did not ask him to introduce it.

While the senator said he thinks the existing lethal injection law allows prison officials to shield information from public disclosure, he said addressing it specifically in statute would help keep the death penalty functional.

In 2015 the Legislature repealed the death penalty over the governor's veto. But in November, 61 % of voters overturned the repeal and reinstated capital punishment.

Ricketts has said he will make every effort to proceed with the executions of the 10 men on Nebraska's death row.

Death penalty opponents have argued that the state has an obligation to keep the execution process open to public scrutiny. They also have predicted confidentiality provisions will simply be subject to legal challenges.

Source: Omaha World-Herald, January 18, 2017

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