NCC urges against execution

One year after Nebraska voters reinstated the death penalty, state officials said they will seek to execute death row inmate Jose Sandoval, who with three other men entered a Norfolk bank in 2002 and killed four bank employees and a customer.

Prison officials said Nov. 9 they had obtained supplies of four drugs that will allow them to use lethal injection. After a 60-day notice period for Sandoval, a death warrant will be sought, said Attorney General Doug Peterson.

Tom Venzor, executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC), which represents the public policy priorities of Archbishop George J. Lucas and Bishops James D. Conley of Lincoln and Joseph G. Hanefeldt of Grand Island, said the NCC "deeply regrets" the state’s actions.

"The bishops in Nebraska have been adamant that the death penalty is not necessary for maintaining the public safety. For that reason, we call upon the state of Nebraska to stay the planned execution of Jose Sandoval," Venzor said. "We also sympathize with the profound loss of human lives that has been suffered by the heinous crimes of Mr. Sandoval, and we offer our prayers for the comfort of their families and friends."

In 2015, Nebraska’s bishops spoke strongly in defense of human dignity and against the death penalty as legislators debated the issue, then praised lawmakers for passing a ban and overriding Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto of the ban.

Through a petition effort, enough signatures were gathered to place the issue on the Nov. 8, 2016, general election ballot. Despite public statements against the death penalty by the bishops and others, Nebraskans voted 60.9 percent to 39.1 percent to repeal the ban.

After the vote, all three bishops said they would continue to call for repeal of the death penalty because it is not necessary to protect the public.

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