Nebraska bishops disappointed in death penalty vote; will continue to call for repeal
Disappointed that Nebraskans Nov. 8 reinstated the death penalty in Nebraska, the state’s three bishops said they will continue to call for repeal of capital punishment in the state and hope for reform of the criminal justice system.
“We will continue to call for the repeal of the death penalty because it is not necessary to protect the public safety,” said Archbishop George J. Lucas and Bishops James D. Conley of Lincoln and Joseph G. Hanefeldt of Grand Island. “We hope that the emphasis on punishment in this election cycle won’t overshadow the authentic reforms needed in our criminal justice system,” the bishops said.
Nebraskans voted 60.9 percent to 39.1 percent to repeal the state Legislature’s 2015 ban on the death penalty, marking the second time lawmakers have been defeated in an effort to repeal capital punishment. In 1979, then-Gov. Charlie Thone vetoed a repeal bill.
Last year, legislators overrode Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto of the death penalty ban. With Ricketts and others contributing financially to a petition effort, enough signatures were gathered to place the issue on the general election ballot.
Nebraska’s bishops were among groups that praised the Legislature for banning the death penalty.
And efforts to persuade voters to retain the ban on capital punishment included the Nebraska Catholic Conference, which represents the bishops’ public policy interests, working with the Catholic Mobilizing Network to invite former death row inmates who had been exonerated, crime victims’ families and other death penalty opponents to tell their stories at public meetings in October at the cathedrals of all three dioceses.
The bishops’ statement in full, released after the Nov. 8 elections:
“We express our disappointment that the death penalty will be reinstated in Nebraska. We will continue to call for the repeal of the death penalty because it is not necessary to protect public safety. We hope that the emphasis on punishment in this election cycle won’t overshadow the authentic reforms needed in our criminal justice system.
“With our prayers for the citizens of Nebraska, we are sincerely yours in Christ,”
Archbishop George J. Lucas, Archdiocese of Omaha; Bishop James D. Conley, Diocese of Lincoln; Bishop George J. Hanefeldt, Diocese of Grand Island.