No matter what your political beliefs are, there's a really strong argument for putting an end to capital punishment.
Nebraska recently joined 18 other states and the District of Columbia in abolishing its death penalty.
On May 20, 2015, the Nebraska Legislature voted 32-15 to repeal the death penalty, but Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed that on May 26. The next week, the legislature voted to override the governor's veto on a vote of 30-19 (it takes 30 or more votes to override a veto in Nebraska).
Nebraska lawmakers override governor's veto to abolish death penalty. http://t.co/KSv0fvJ9GPpic.twitter.com/kh17KXWT0V
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) May 27, 2015
Gov. Ricketts responded to the veto override on his Facebook page, expressing his disappointment.
Nationally, nearly 2/3 of all Americans are in favor of the death penalty, but support is on the decline.
In an October 2014 Gallup poll, 63% of Americans favored the death penalty in murder cases, 33% were not in favor, and 4% had no opinion.
Last year, we predicted the demise of the death penalty. Nebraska has now abolished it http://t.co/Gz6MjQsER5pic.twitter.com/CpA764qD6n
— The Economist (@EconUS) May 27, 2015
Support has been on a somewhat steady decline since the mid-'90s, and there are some really compelling reasons to put an end to the death penalty that cross party lines.
1. The death penalty has been shown to be an ineffective way to deter people from committing murder.
The murder rate is actually lower in states without the death penalty than in ones with it, according to the FBI's "Crime in the United States" report.
As of 2013, states without the death penalty have a 21% lower murder rate per 100,000 residents.
2. Wrongful convictions happen — to date, 153 death row inmates have been exonerated.
Yes, innocent people have been put on death row, and it's extremely probable that innocent people have died. The criminal justice system has been wrong before, and it certainly will be again.
There's no going back from executing an innocent person.
3. Studies have suggested that execution is actually more expensive than life in prison.
Seattle University studied the costs of Washington state death penalty cases and those where the state hasn't sought the death penalty, and found that death penalty cases are on average over $1 million more expensive.
Maryland, the most recent state to abolish the death penalty (2013), concluded in a 2008 study that from 1978 to 2008, the state spent around $186 million on death penalty cases. In that same period, the state executed five inmates. It found that life in prison was a better option, financially.
4. If you think about it, capital punishment is a really arbitrary system — especially for something so serious.
Why do some people get sentenced to death while others get life in prison? Why does a state prosecute two criminals in such majorly different ways — and with such immensely different outcomes?
No one really knows.
Or, actually, there are some factors, but they're not going to make anyone happy:
1. Despite the fact that about 50% of murder victims are white, nearly 80% of executions involve cases where the victims were white.
2. A 2000 Justice Department survey found that prosecutors sought the death penalty disproportionately often in cases where the defendant was a racial minority.
Nebraska became the first traditionally conservative state to abolish the death penalty in more than 40 years. Just think if this started a trend.
Whether we as a country continue with the death penalty doesn't have to be a "blue vs. red" issue, a "left vs. right" issue, a "liberal vs. conservative" issue. The Nebraska Legislature just proved that. The U.S. can distance itself from the death penalty — if we want it.