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The death penalty in the U.S.

Developments during 2016:

Voters in 3 states voted on the
death penalty measured. Pro-life
groups lost in each case.

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Part 2 of two parts

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This topic, is continued from the preceding essay.

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1. California:

Voters were presented with two measures:

  • Proposition 62 would have abolished the death penalty. According to the state Official Voter Information Guide, if this measure had been passed by the voters:
    • Executions would have been replaced by a strict life imprisonment with no chance for parole -- ever.

    • Criminals would "... have to work and pay restitution to their victims' families."

The Guide noted that:

    • The state has spent about: "... $5 billion since 1978 to carry out 13 executions -- a cost of $384 million per execution."

    • If passed, the measure would save the state about $150 million a year.

    • "Instead of being housed in expensive private cells on death row, murderers would be kept with other maximum-security inmates."

On election day, 2016-NOV-08, the measure failed by with about 46% "yes" votes and 54% "no" votes. These values will change slightly as vote-by-mail ballots are counted. But the current result is unlikely to be reversed. The final count will be certified on DEC-16. 1,2

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  • Proposition 66 would have shortened the time that legal challenges to death sentences take to a maximum of five years. This would have speeded up the rate of executions for the almost 750 people housed in in the state's death rows. 3

The Official Voter Guide listed pro and con views on Prop 66:

Pro: "A YES vote on this measure means: Court procedures for legal challenges to death sentences would be subject to various changes, such as time limits on those challenges and revised rules to increase the number of available attorneys for those challenges. Condemned inmates could be housed at any state prison. ..."

Con: "Prop. 66 is not real reform. We don't know all of its consequences, but we do know this: it adds more layers of government bureaucracy causing more delays, costs taxpayers money, and increases California's risk of executing an innocent person. Prop. 66 is a costly experiment that makes matters worse." 3

Two non-profits that take opposing views on Proposition 66 are:

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2. Nebraska:

On 2015-MAY-27, the state Legislature had passed bill LB268 to abolish capital punishment in Nebraska. The vote was 30 to 19. That is a surprising development because support for the death penalty is so high in this solidly red state.

State Senator Bill Kinter (R), who supports capital punishment, later posted a picture of a beheaded woman on his Facebook page, saying:

"According to the Nebraska Legislature, the thugs that did this should just be locked away and well fed for the next 50 years of the (sic) lives. Anyone think the Legislature is thinking clearly?" 4

Governor Pete Ricketts (R) vetoed the bill. However, the Legislature was able to override his veto. 5

State Senator Beau McCoy (R) announced his intent to place a measure on the 2016-NOV ballot to reinstate the death penalty. He, Governor Ricketts and many other supporters of the death penalty organized Nebraskans for the Death Penalty. 4

Before the law took effect in 2015-SEP, Governor Rickkets argued that the state would execute the ten prisoners on Nebraksa's death row. He argued that all ten had been sentenced by the court to death, and that the legislature does not have the authority to reduce that sentence.

However, a death warrant can only come from the state Supreme Court which is unlikely to issue such a warrant in view of the new law. 5

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty successfully collected the required number of signatures to place a referendum on the 2016-NOV-08 ballot. It passed by a vote of about 60% to 40%. The official count will be released later.

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3. Oklahoma:

On election day, voters passed State Question 776, which is also known as the Oklahoma Death Penalty Amendment. It amends the the state Constitution to permit the death penalty.

The amendment's chief sponsor in the Legislature is Senator Anthony Sykes (R).

It states that, irrespective of the method used, the death penalty itself:

"... shall not be deemed to be or constitute the infliction of cruel or unusual punishment." 6

The measure adds the following text to Article II, Section 9a of the state Constitution:

"All statutes of this state requiring, authorizing, imposing or relating to the death penalty are in full force and effect, subject to legislative amendment or repeal by statute, initiative or referendum. Any method of execution shall be allowed, unless prohibited by the United States Constitution. Methods of execution may be designated by the Legislature. A sentence of death shall not be reduced on the basis that a method of execution is invalid. In any case in which an execution method is declared invalid, the death sentence shall remain in force until the sentence can be lawfully executed by any valid method. The death penalty provided for under such statutes shall not be deemed to be, or to constitute, the infliction of cruel or unusual punishments, nor shall such punishment be deemed to contravene any other provision of this Constitution." 7

With 99.6% of the precincts reporting results were 66.4% in favor of the amendment and 33.6% opposed. 7

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Liliana Segura, "The Death Penalty won big on election day, but the Devil is in the details," TheIntercept, 2016-NOV-11, at: https://theintercept.com/
  2. "Prop 62: Death Penalty. Initiative Statute," Voter Guide, at: http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/
  3. "Prop 66: Death Penalty. Initiative Statute," Voter Guide, at: http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/
  4. Martha Stoddard, "State Sen. Kintner, a death penalty backer, stirs up controversy by posting photo of beheaded woman on Facebook," Omaha World-Herald, 2015-JUN-04, at: http://www.omaha.com/
  5. Garrett Epps, "Out of Spite: The Governor of Nebraska’s Threat to Execute Prisoners," The Atlantic, 2015-JUN-05, at: http://www.theatlantic.com/
  6. Liliana Segura, "The Death Penalty won big on election day, but the Devil is in the details," TheIntercept, 2016-NOV-11, at: https://theintercept.com/
  7. "Oklahoma Death Penalty, State Question 776 (2016)," Ballotpedia, at: https://ballotpedia.org/

Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2016-NOV-18
Last updated: 2016-NOV-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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