Friday, February 08, 2008

Nebraska Supreme Court says electrocution unconstitutional

Omaha World Herald is reporting that the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled the electric chair, the only method of execution in Nebraska unconstitutional. This means that there will be a moratorium on executions in Nebraska, until the state adopts another procedure to execute inmates.
LINCOLN - In a 6-1 ruling Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled the state's electric chair to be unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.

In a decision upholding the first-degree murder conviction of Raymond Mata Jr., 35, in the 1999 kidnapping and murder of 3-year-old Adam Gomez of Scottsbluff, the high court said it would not schedule Mata for execution until the state adopts a constitutionally acceptable method for carrying out a death sentence.

"The evidence shows that electrocution inflicts intesnese pain and agonizing suffering," said the 69-page majority opinion written by Judge William Connolly. "We recognize the temptation to make the prisoner, suffer, just as the prisoner made an innocent victim suffer. But it is the hallmark of a civilized society that we punish cruelty without practicing it."

Chief Justice Michael Heavican dissented from the majority opinion, disagreeing that the evolving standards of decency mean that the electric chair should now be regarded as unnecessarily cruel.

The high court decision came one day after a legislative committee voted to put proposed repeal of Nebraska's death penalty before the full Legislature to be debated this year. Judiciary Committee Chairman Brad Ashford said Friday's ruling intensifies the doubts about retaining the death penalty.


"...we conclude that electrocution will unquestionably inflict intolerable pain unnecessary to cause death in enough executions so as to present a substantial risk that any prisoner will suffer unnecessary and wanton pain in a judicial execution by electrocution."

"Besides presenting a substantial risk of unnecessary pain, we conclude that electrocution is unnecessarily cruel in its purposeless infliction of physical violence and mutilation of the prisoner's body..."

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