Nebraska is no stranger to efforts to increase transparency surrounding the death penalty. Most recently, both the drugs involved and the actual execution of Carey Dean Moore were shrouded in secrecy. Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty firmly agrees with Senator Patty Pansing Brooks that while the death penalty remains part of Nebraska law, the process must be open. When it comes to the state ending a life, privacy is not an option. To allow the state’s surreptitious behavior to go unchecked is to further deny Nebraskans the Eight Amendment’s guarantee that neither cruel nor unusual punishments shall be inflicted.
After Moore’s execution, Pansing Brooks promised to introduce legislation that would bring more transparency to the execution process, and on January 14th, she introduced such a bill, LB238. Supporter of death penalty abolition, Pansing Brooks believes that with the death penalty back on the table, we must “make sure that we are doing it properly and that witnesses are actually able to witness the entire execution.”
Referring to the shielded manner in which Moore was executed, Pansing Brooks explained that “having a 14 or 19 minute gap is not appropriate, and it is very clear that as a state, if we are going to do the most serious of acts, which is taking the life of a human being, we had better make sure that everything is done appropriately…according to protocol, and humanely.” As an additional accountability measure, Pansing Brooks’ bill would require two state senators to be witnesses at executions, as they are responsible for making the laws.
Opponents of such transparency cite employee privacy as a concern and reason to limit witness access in executions. However, Pansing Brooks believes this is “a problem easily solved by making sure that the people who are participating in the execution can…hide their [identities]” by wearing masks or glasses, for example. There are reasonable means in which employees can hide their identities, and NADP agrees that this should not be “a reason to put that curtain down.” NADP is thankful to have the support of Senators, like Pansing Brooks, who are dedicated to holding the state accountable in the face of this life-ending punishment.