Back in May, legislators in Nebraska did something incredible: they voted to repeal the death penalty in the state. (They had just enough votes to override Governor Pete Ricketts‘ veto.)
Chambers (below) also happens to be the highest-ranking openly-atheist politician in the country.
Despite the victory, the blood lust in the state is strong. A petition has signed by enough people to suspend the law for now and put the death penalty back up for a vote in next November’s elections. In other words, Chambers’ accomplishment could soon be overturned. It also raises a number of questions:
The announcement was a clear victory for Gov. Pete Ricketts, a vigorous supporter of capital punishment and a major financial contributor to the petition effort. It was a blow to the coalition of legislators who argued in emotional hearings at the state Capitol in May that the death penalty system in Nebraska was inefficient, expensive and immoral.
But it also opened up new uncertainties surrounding the death penalty in Nebraska: With the repeal law suspended, would prosecutors once again seek the penalty when trying murder cases? Could the governor’s so far fruitless efforts to obtain lethal injection drugs succeed? And could an execution take place in the more than yearlong interim before the statewide referendum on the issue next November, as Nebraskans continue to be roiled by a debate over the death penalty?
As one law professor noted, it’s a mess. And it shouldn’t have to come to this. With the requisite drugs unavailable and potentially innocent people being executed, the death penalty has no business in civilized society. That’s what barbaric nations do. We’re supposed to be better than that.
And thanks to an atheist, Nebraska was leading the way forward… at least until now.
(Image via YouTube)