America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Nebraska: Death penalty opponents voice concerns after execution date set for killer

"So many legal questions"

Opponents of the death penalty fear the next month will become a "media circus" as the state prepares for its first execution in over 2 decades.

On Thursday, the Nebraska Supreme Court set Aug. 14 as the execution date for condemned killer Carey Dean Moore, the longest-serving inmate on death row.

"What we're going to see here over the next six weeks, is a circus," Matt Maly, of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said.

Maly is concerned about how the state is moving forward with its 1st execution in 21 years and the 1st using lethal injection.

"There are so many legal questions surrounding this experimentation with drugs that have never been used before, and there is so much secrecy. They still haven't said where they got them (the drugs) from. We don't know what's going to happen. I think that's totally irresponsible," Maly said.

He believes the state is trying to have an execution before some of the 4 drugs that will be used in the execution expire.

"They are clearly rushing through to get it done," Maly said.

But in a statement, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said, "Carey Dean Moore's death sentences have been final for 21 years. All subsequent court challenges have been exhausted. No stays of execution have been issued by any federal court. The Department of Correctional Services is prepared to carry out the court's order."

Moore, 60, was convicted in the 1979 deaths of Omaha cab drivers Maynard Helgeland and Reuel Van Ness.

He was sentenced to death in 1980.

Moore currently has no legal challenges pending.

A spokesperson for Gov. Pete Ricketts said, "The announcement by the Supreme Court is another step towards carrying out the sentences ordered by the court."

Maly is also concerned about what the scene will be like outside the Penitentiary during the execution.

Corrections officials have not indicated what time the execution will take place, but the state's last execution, in 1997 of Robert Williams, was carried out in midmorning to avoid partylike scenes that occurred during previous executions.

"People yelling at each other, some people cheering and some people quietly praying. It's sure to be quite a mess," Maly said.

On Friday, Nebraska Catholic Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, and Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt of Grand Island, issued a statement opposing the execution.

It said Nebraska has the opportunity to respond to an act of violence with an act of mercy.

"There is no doubt the state has the responsibility to administer just punishment. However, given our modern prison system, the execution of Carey Dean Moore is not necessary to fulfill justice and, for that reason, would undermine respect for human life," the statement said.

Source: KETV news, July 7, 2018

Scheduled execution in Nebraska 'would undermine respect for human life'

Nebraska's bishops on Friday issued a statement opposing the execution of Carey Dean Moore, whose execution date has been set for Aug. 14.

"Our society has a pervasive culture of violence and death which can only be transformed by a counter-culture of justice and mercy," read a July 6 statement issued by Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, and Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt of Grand Island.

"Each time we consider applying capital punishment, Nebraska has an opportunity to respond to an act of violence with an act of mercy that does not endanger public safety or compromise the demands of justice."

"There is no doubt the state has the responsibility to administer just punishment," the bishops wrote. "However, given our modern prison system, the execution of Carey Dean Moore is not necessary to fulfill justice and, for that reason, would undermine respect for human life."

The bishops said that "We continue to offer our sincerest prayers for all victims and those affected by the heinous crimes of Mr. Moore, and we pray for his conversion of heart."

Nebraska has not executed a prisoner in 21 years, and capital punishment has been a contentious issue in the state's legislature in recent years.

Moore's execution date was set July 5 by the Nebraska Supreme Court. Moore, 60, has been on death row 38 years, the longest of the state's 12 death row inmates. He was sentenced for the 1979 murders of 2 cab drivers, Reuel Van Ness, Jr. and Maynard Helgeland.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that Moore will be executed by injection of diazepam, fentanyl citrate, cisatracurium besylate, and potassium chloride. Moore's execution would be the 1st lethal injection in Nebraska; most recently, the state utilized the electric chair.

Nebraska's store of potassium chloride is due to expire at the end of August.

A district judge ruled in June that the state had to release records of its communications with the supplier of its lethal injection drugs, but the decision was appealed and there records remain private.

Moore has chosen not to appeal his execution.

Capital punishment was abolished by Nebraska's unicameral legislature in 2015, overriding a veto by Gov. Pete Ricketts. But state voters reinstated the practice 2016 in a ballot measure by a vote of about 61 %.

"We express our disappointment that the death penalty will be reinstated in Nebraska," Nebraska's 3 bishops said in a joint statement Nov. 9, 2016. "We will continue to call for the repeal of the death penalty when it is not absolutely necessary to protect the public safety." 

Source: Lincoln Journal Star, July 7, 2018

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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