The Lincoln Journal-Star considers the problem facing Nebraska’s Department of Corrections and wonders whether now would be a good time to consider changing the rules that govern the state’s use of capital punishment. Since they phrased it as a question, I thought I might weigh in.
The easy answer would be “No.” But you can bet that Nebraska isn’t planning to take “No” for an answer when it comes to its death penalty.
Rather than spending more time and money to “tweak” Nebraska’s execution protocols, elected officials should just admit defeat and commute the death sentences of the eleven guys they’ve been trying for years to kill to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
But that will never happen.
Instead, we’ll be treated to several more years of expensive legal challenges and delays as the state tweaks its protocol in order to get around the lack of sodium thiopental. Maybe Nebraska will switch to pentobarbital, as many states have … except we already know this:
[T]he Danish manufacturer of pentobarbital, Lundbeck, has expressed concern over its product being used for execution and said in July it would move to block sales to states that want to use it for that.
So maybe Nebraska will take the same tack as Oklahoma, which opted for generic language when it made changes to its execution protocol. Except, of course, that such language invites more expensive and time-intensive legal challenges from inmates; their lawyers will surely avail themselves of the opportunity and inmates who have been on death row for thirty years will remain there, with the added expense billed to me and my fellow citizens.
Just give up, Nebraska.
Join the other states whose elected officials have already figured out what yours seem so unwilling to admit: The death penalty doesn’t make us safer, or heal victims’ families, or make criminals less likely to commit murder, or even save us money. It’s a wasteful, shameful admission that we have failed as a society and no matter how many times we try to “tweak” it, we’ll always end up with the same useless, ineffective sham.