Religious leaders, victims' family members will tour Nebraska to end death penalty

by Elizabeth A. Elliott

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Religious leaders, including Jesuit Fr. Dennis Hamm of Omaha, are joining Stephen Griffith, executive director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and former United Methodist pastor, and Bill Thornton, an evangelical pastor from Lincoln, Neb., in announcing a statewide tour to end the death penalty this morning at First United Methodist Church in Omaha.

"Catholic churches around Nebraska are opening up their doors to Journey speakers because we recognize the importance of informing our parishioners about the failings of Nebraska's death penalty system and the church's teaching that we don't need to resort to taking life to protect society," Hamm said in a press release.

The religious leaders were joined by murder victims' family members who are beginning a 10-day, 15-city statewide tour addressing alternatives to the death penalty. The speakers are from Journey of Hope ... from Violence to Healing, an organization led by murder victims' family members, those exonerated from death row, and family members of death row inmates.

Members Marietta Jaeger-Lane, SueZann Bosler and George White have been telling their stories around the world for over 20 years.

According to the Journey of Hope website, Lane's 7-year-old daughter Susie was kidnapped, raped and murdered. During a home invasion, an intruder stabbed to death Bosler's father, the Rev. Bill Bosler, and left SueZann for dead. She worked for more than a decade to have the perpetrator's sentence commuted to life. During a robbery, a masked man shot White and his wife Charlene, who died in George's arms. George was falsely convicted of her murder and it took seven years to prove his innocence.

The tour comes as a referendum to repeal a law that abolished the death penalty in Nebraska passed with enough approved signatures to be on the ballot during the Nov. 8 general election. Nebraska became the 19th state to abolish the death penalty in May 2015, with a 32-15 vote. The bill was vetoed by Gov. Peter Ricketts, but legislators overrode the veto with a 30-19 vote.

There are others who will also speak on this tour. The speaker schedule can be found here

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