No permanent fix for Nebraska death penalty

Nebraska is unlikely to be able to carry out lethal injections even if the voters decide on the November ballot to override the legislature’s decision to repeal the death penalty. At a news conference Wednesday, University of Nebraska law professor Eric Berger and State Sen. Colby Coash spoke about the state’s death penalty system just after Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts announced on Dec. 4 he will reverse efforts to import drugs to carry out lethal injections.

The referendum to repeal a law that abolished the death penalty in Nebraska passed with enough approved signatures and is on the ballot during the 2016 general election on Nov. 8. Over 65,000 signatures were verified, meeting the 56,942 threshold to get the issue on the ballot according to the Omaha World-Herald. Ricketts added that he stepped up conversations with the attorney general and corrections director to review protocols in other states.

Berger said at the conference that Nebraska will likely continue to have problems getting drugs for their execution protocol and “the only sure thing is that any Nebraska lethal injection procedure will be subject to expensive, time-consuming legal challenges.”

Coash has spent nearly eight years in the legislature. He said he saw periods of time when there was a pro-death penalty governor, attorney general and legislature, yet the death penalty remained nonfunctional.

“Had it been possible to get the death penalty functional they would have done it. But they didn’t, because there’s no way to make the system workable,” Coash said.

We say: Charlottesville reveals the weeping wound of racism. What do we, the American Catholic faith community, do next? Read the editorial.

Even if the state adopts a new protocol, Berger said there would be no guarantee the state would even obtain the lethal drugs.

“Many drug manufacturers have signaled that they want to stop selling drugs to states for use in executions, and there are also some drug shortages that exist independent of the death penalty,” said Berger. “The result is that many states can’t get the drugs they need for their procedure.” 

[Elizabeth A. Elliott is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is]


Support independent reporting on important issues.

 One family graphic_2016_250x103.jpg

Show comments

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.