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Nov. 9 — Death penalty supporters in Nebraska, Oklahoma and California are declaring victory after voters in those states approved pro-capital punishment initiatives Nov. 8.
The referendum results buck a nationwide trend that was moving many states in the opposite direction.
Voters in the Cornhusker State have put the death penalty back on the table just 18 months after the Legislature got rid of capital punishment and replaced it with life without parole.
The “ Nebraska Death Penalty Repeal Referendum,” which asked voters to repeal LB 268 and reinstate the death penalty as an option for defendants convicted of first degree murder, won resoundingly with more than 60 percent of the vote. Those numbers closely tracked President-elect Donald Trump’s margin of victory in the state.
Oklahoma voters strengthened that state’s commitment to the death penalty by approving an amendment to the state constitution which declares that capital punishment isn’t cruel and unusual.
The measure also states that all methods of execution are constitutionally allowed, and if an execution method is deemed invalid, “the death sentence shall remain in force until the sentence can be lawfully executed by any valid method.”
According to statistics compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center, Oklahoma has the highest number of executions per capita in the U.S.
Confronted with a pair of competing initiatives, Californians rejected a proposal to replace all death sentences with life without parole and instead opted to keep capital punishment on the books with several reforms designed to streamline the review process.
Proposition 66, which narrowly passed with just 50.9 percent of the vote, expressly retains capital punishment and adds a series of reforms designed to streamline the post-conviction appeals process. It imposes tighter filing deadlines, limits successive petitions, requires appointed lawyers in noncapital cases to take death penalty appeals and makes attorneys available for post-conviction matters at the time of sentence.
In just the past 10 years, seven states have abolished capital punishment and the governors of Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Pennsylvania have temporarily halted executions in those states. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have outlawed capital punishment,
To contact the reporter on this story: Lance J. Rogers in Washington at LRogers@bna.com
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Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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