Court: Nebraska Electric Chair Not Legal

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday that electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment, outlawing the electric chair in the only state that still used it as its sole means of execution.

In the landmark ruling, the court said the state Legislature may vote to have a death penalty, just not one that offends rights under the state constitution. The evidence shows that electrocution inflicts “intense pain and agonizing suffering,” it said.

“Condemned prisoners must not be tortured to death, regardless of their crimes,” Judge William Connolly wrote in the 6-1 opinion.

“Contrary to the State’s argument, there is abundant evidence that prisoners sometimes will retain enough brain functioning to consciously suffer the torture high voltage electric current inflicts on a human body,” Connolly wrote.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, Capital Punishment

17 comments on “Court: Nebraska Electric Chair Not Legal

  1. robroy says:

    Readers interested in this topic might want to listen to [url= ]a round table discussion[/url] sponsored by the New England Journal about the recent Supreme court hearing on the constitutionality of lethal injection by the triple drug cocktail (sodium pentathal, pancuronium, and potassium chloride).

    Unfortunately, the expert panel seemed to include those who were against the death penalty in any circumstance by any method which hampered discussion. They also argued, without anyone dissenting, that a physician should participate in executions (so much for the Hippocratic oath). Also, they stated that little research can be done and that their are no experts in the field. This is not true. We only need to turn to our veterinarian colleagues.

    My take on all of this is that one should simple give boluses of Sodium thiopental at five minute intervals while using a “BIS monitor” (which monitors electrical activity of the brain during surgical procedures). When the BIS registers 5, where less than 20 indicates general anesthesia and actually less than 60 is most definitely “out of it”, one could start an infusion of potassium chloride. The round table discussants talk about problems obtaining IV access but one can give Sodium thiopental by intramuscular injections.

    Disclaimer: I, too, have serious misgivings about the death penalty, in particular whether lady justice is truly covering her eyes and using a fair scale when meting out her sentences. But if you are going to do it, do it right. I personally would never participate in euthanasia, elective abortion, or capital punishment.

  2. robroy says:

    Addendum: If you follow the link above, there is a link for seeing a video which I could not get to work, but the link to listen to the audio does work.

  3. Old Soldier says:

    These kinds of things should be decided by elected officials, not lawyers in choir robes.

  4. Sick & Tired of Nuance says:

    What a shame that the same level of care and concern never seems to be proffered to the victims. Not a bit of just outrage or righteous anger over the tortured deaths that the victims endured ever seems to make it into the conversation. The symbol of justice, the balance, is certainly applied when weighing the evidence to convict or acquit, but somehow the same tool becomes barbaric when applied to meting out punishment.

    The Scriptures, given to us by the Lord Almighty through the voices and pens of his servants, do not hesitate to prescribe the death penalty [this in an age long before video cameras and DNA evidence provided surety of guilt]. What does our evident “nicer than God” attitude towards capitol punishment say of us? Are we indeed “nicer than God”? Are we saying God is unjust in his proscription of the death penalty found in Scripture? Are we saying Scripture is not actually the Word of God? Are we placing ourselves above the moral pronouncements of our Creator?

    We should be humane, not because the fiends deserve our selective kindness, but to preserve our own humanity. However, we should also be just lest our passivity in swiftly prosecuting wrath toward evildoers become complicity with their crimes.

    For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Romans 13:4

    What is the sword if not the power of death? It is as clear as glass that the government servant bearing the power of death is actually and simultaneously the minister of God to extract revenge on behalf of the victims and execute wrath [the power of death] upon those who have done evil.

    Are any of us “nicer than God”?

  5. Virgil in Tacoma says:

    #3…So the legislative (or executive) branch can determine whether the laws it creates are constitutional? So much for separation of powers safeguards. It’s kind of like letting the fox guard the hen house.

  6. Old Soldier says:

    So Virgil, years and years after the law has been on the books and not found lacking by previous courts these enlightened lawyers in choir robes can now decide otherwise?

  7. Virgil in Tacoma says:

    #6…Since justices aren’t omnipotent, it’s certainly possible.

  8. Harvey says:

    #4 I agree with what you say 100%. I’ll add my own comment to the subject. If it were possible I would put cruel and inhuman murderers in a situation that would never let them walk our streets again. The Old Testament Law speaks of cities of refuge; a place where guilty person were able to stay the rest of their life. There was one condition – don’t ever leave or you place yourself in peril.

  9. Chazaq says:

    A shocking development. Sparks are gonna fly over this decision.

  10. Philip Snyder says:

    If you don’t think that life in prison (let alone administrative segregation (solitary) or “super-seg” (really tough solitary) isn’t “cruel and unusual punishment” then you need to get down to a local maximum security prison and talk to the correctional officers about what life is like for the inmates. The argument that the condemned person feels some pain as part of the execution logically ends with releasing prisoners because they are subjected to some pain as part of their confinement.

    Phil Snyder

  11. libraryjim says:

    Harvey, we can’t even keep track of child molesters who are supposed to register with their city of residence. We can’t keep track of immigrants who enter this country on a student visa and then simply walk away and disappear.

    I don’t think we could keep track of murderers in ‘cities of refuge’ that well either, if they chose to walk out, even if it were in the middle of a Louisiana swamp filled with ‘gators and snakes.

    But your remark sort of reminded me of the movie “Escape from New York” with Kurt Russell.

  12. John Wilkins says:

    #3 – actually this is exactly what should be decided by judges. Judges balance the mob. the mob lynches. the mob engages and requires ritual killing of people who they deem guilty, evidence or not. Elected officials will pander, worried about their jobs, eager to satisfy the bloodlust of the wounded and vengeful people.

  13. Wilfred says:

    #13 John – If you think judges should decide this sort of thing, then you’d better be prepared when a judge’s decision goes the other way. Say a popular defendant -perhaps an athlete- is deemed not guilty, despite overwhelming evidence. Can the judge step in and order his execution?

    For all its flaws, I am glad we have (a least in theory) trial by jury.

    And why do you think that a jury, fairly constituted and having carefully deliberated, is a “mob”? Why do you think elected officials will “pander” by trying to convict, but for some reason never pander by trying to acquit? It can cut both ways. And why do you dismiss the victims of crime as bloodthirsty and vengeful people?

  14. John Wilkins says:

    No – and thnk God. Better a guilty person go innocent than the other way around. Let Vengeance be God’s. Acquitting is always more just than the other way around. It’s a better risk than the alternative. Better to err on the side of forgiveness and mercy than to make a mistake by taking someone’s life or years of their life.

    Second – the issue is not a jury. The issue is whether elected officials can withstand peer pressure. I didn’t call a jury a mob.

    Revenge is a natural urge for victims. It is a poor basis for civilization. I don’t begrudge the feeling, but more often violence escalates. I know that my own grudges haven’t been just, myself.

    Second, although I sympathize with victims, publics can feel outraged and create their own lynch mob, even though they aren’t wounded personally. that is when they start making irrational decisions, creating a cycle of violence that is often hard to stop.

    Punishment feels good. It is not the same as restorative justice.

  15. Sick & Tired of Nuance says:

    It is a strange mercy and no justice at all to not punish a serial murderer or serial rapist or arsonist because of some warped sense of “restorative justice” or reinterpretation of “cruel or unusual”. When the phrase “cruel or unusual” was written, it was not considered cruel to hang convicted murderers by the neck until dead. It was normal to do so. Those who penned the law voiced no qualms about capital criminals being executed.

    As to revenge belonging to God…yes, absolutely. Vengeance does belong to God and not to the individual. And, as clearly stated in the Scriptures [Romans 13:4 above] the Government worker is God’s minister and a “revenger”. It is precisely the mechanism God has chosen to exact revenge on behalf of the victims. That is what frees the victims and their family from acting on their own and taking revenge themselves. God’s minister, the government executioner, takes revenge on behalf of the aggrieved parties…and THAT is mercy for both them and the criminal. At least, so says the Scripture.

    If the Government [the instrument God has chosen to do so] fails to provide justice and vengeance for the aggrieved victims, why shouldn’t they take their own vengeance?

    I thought we Christians were all about providing justice to the oppressed. Where is the justice for the oppressed victims of fiends and villains if we stay the hand of God’s instrument to provide that justice and vengeance?

    [blockquote]For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Romans 13:4 [/blockquote]

  16. Wilfred says:

    #15 John – You state, “Acquitting is always more just … Better to err on the side of forgiveness and mercy than to make a mistake by taking someone’s life or years of their life.”

    So you would let Ted Bundy off with, what, a stern lecture? If you’ve just acquitted him, maybe he doesn’t even have to stick around for the tongue-lashing on his way out the door. It might hurt his feeelings.

    It’s one thing to oppose capital punishment; I disagree, but I understand. But I find it incomprehensible for anyone to think that it is “aways more just” to [i] acquit. [/i] If you’re never on a jury, our nation will be a safer place for it.

  17. Old Soldier says:

    John #15. Just curious. Are you ACLU?