Capital Punishment in Nebraska

October 11, 2011

Mrs. Kenton's Criminal Justice Class is studying about Capital punishment in Nebraska.  Each student is researching the case of an inmate who is presently on death row or has been executed.

A total of 37 individuals have been executed in Nebraska including 3 since 1976 as the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the resumption of executions.  Today, there are a total of 11 people on death row in the state.  On February 8, 2008, the Nebraska Supreme Court declared electrocution "cruel and unusual punishment"; Nebraska was the last state to declare the electric chair, "cruel and unusual punishment."  On May 28, 2009, the state legislature adopted lethal injection as its execution method.

The most notorious electrocution ever carried out in the state of Nebraska is arguably that of murderer Charles Starkweather, whose 1958 killing spree with his teenage girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate contributed to his reputation as one of America's most bloodthirsty spree killers to ever be brought to justice. (He was executed June 25, 1959 at age 20)

The process in Nebraska is as follows:  The jury decides the sentence and may punish First Degree Murder as a Class I felony or a Class IA felony.  According to Nebraska law, Class I felonies mean death is the punishment and Class IA felonies mean life imprisonment without parole is the punishment.  Death sentences are automatically appealed to a three-judge panel.  The Governor of Nebraska sits on the board that determines clemency.  Thirty-one people have been given clemency including 11 since 1976.  First Degree Murder is the only Class I crime.  Nebraska State Penitentiary is where executions in Nebraska have taken place since 1903. As in any other state, people who are under 18 at the time of commission of the capital crime, or mentally challenged, are constitutionally not permitted to being executed.