"If this were any other government program, we would have gotten rid of it a long time ago."
-Republican Senator Colby Coash (LD27 - 2009-2017)
Costly and Inefficient Government Program
The death penalty is consistently more expensive than life in prison without parole because of the additional preparation in capital cases, the separate sentencing phase, post-conviction appeals, and the added costs of death row.
Between 1973 and 2007, Nebraska taxpayers paid for 103 cases in which the prosecution sought the death penalty, only 31 of which resulted in a death sentence. More than half of those death sentences were reversed, and only three have resulted in an execution.
Richardson County nearly went bankrupt and had to borrow money against its ambulances in order to pay for two capital cases.
Risk of Executing an Innocent Person
Since 1973, 159 individuals in the US have been wrongfully sentenced to death and later exonerated. More than 300 others, including six in Nebraska, have been exonerated from long prison sentences as a result of dramatic advances in DNA testing.
Nebraskan Matthew Livers was interrogated for 11 hours, and threatened with the electric chair before he confessed to the murder of his Aunt and Uncle. However, he didn’t do it and the real murderers are now serving life sentences for that crime.
DNA has irrefutably shown that we make mistakes, but it’s no silver bullet. DNA evidence is available in only 5-10% of criminal cases. Even when it is available, in some cases investigators have falsified evidence. A human system can never be 100% accurate.
A Failed Policy for Murder Victims’ Families
Capital cases prolong the legal process, keeping the victims’ families in legal limbo for years. All the while, the offender is kept in the limelight and victims’ families may be without critical resources. A single capital case costs millions, which can divert resources away from counseling and support services addressing the many needs faced by all victims’ families. In 2012, Nebraska was ranked last in the nation for funding victims’ services.
Conservatives Speaking out Against bad Policy
In 2015, 16 Republicans in the unicameral joined 13 Democrats and 1 Independent in voting to replace the death penalty with life without parole. This historic vote received nationwide attention for being a conservative led effort.
During the legislative debate in 2015, a wide variety of conservative leaders submitted this joint letter to the media.
The Omaha World-Herald published this letter from past chairman of the Douglas County Republican Party - Bryan Baumgart - explaining why his conservative principles lead him to oppose the death penalty.
The Nebraska chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus calls for the abolition of the death penalty.