Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Death penalty debate continues in Legislature


Death penalty debate continues in Legislature

State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha said Tuesday he wants to block the
execution of Carey Dean Moore with legislation that would restrict, though
not repeal, the death penalty.

In an angry floor speech, Chambers said he disapproved of published
comments by legislative leaders that the Legislature is not the proper
forum to decide Moore's fate.

"(Preventing Moore's execution) is my only reason for participating in
what the Judiciary Committee is doing," he said. "I will not temporize."

Nevertheless, when Judiciary Committee Chairman Brad Ashford unveiled the
1st draft of the proposal, it contained no retroactivity clause to make it
automatically apply to Moore's case or those of any of the 9 other men on
death row. The plan would not allow a convicted murderer to be a candidate
for the death penalty unless a jury finds, beyond a reasonable doubt, that
"the offender poses a present and substantial risk to the lives of others
that cannot reasonably and effectively be controlled by institutional
security measures."

A public hearing on the proposal is set for 1:30 p.m. Friday.

The Judiciary Committee approved the new approach last week - after
Chambers' effort to repeal the death penalty fell one vote short on
first-round debate and after the State Supreme Court set Moore's May 8
execution date. The Attorney General's Office and Moore both had requested
a date in early May.

Ashford said the only way the proposal could affect Moore's case is if it
became law before May 8 and Moore used it as grounds to go to court.

However, before his execution date was set by the Supreme Court last week,
Moore submitted a document to the court saying he wanted to die and
wouldn't file more appeals.

"To me, Carey Dean Moore has his own life in his own hands - and that's
his decision to make," said Ashford.

Speaker Mike Flood issued a memorandum to lawmakers Tuesday morning that
said he did not intend to allow the proposal, offered as an amendment to
Legislative Bill 377, to be debated before it had a public hearing to
allow supporters, opponents and others to comment upon it.

In an interview, he said he expects the proposal to be advanced from the
Judiciary Committee and to be debated by the full Legislature within 3
weeks. Flood, a death penalty supporter, said he opposes the amendment but
would not let his opinion affect its scheduling.

Ashford said the amendment's intent is to restrict the death penalty to
only the "worst of the worst." If it were in place, he predicted that
Nebraska would have seen only 5 to 10 people sentenced to death since
1976, instead of 34. Only 3 people have been executed.

Ashford said the proposal would not be a backdoor repeal of the death

"The death penalty would still be assessed, that's my opinion," he said.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

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