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Dear friends,

What's happening in Texas?

For decades, no other state has kept its machinery of death cranking over so regularly as Texas. But this year it seems like some grit has found its way deep into the machinery's cogs. Executions are down. Juries are choosing life over death. Stays of execution are outnumbering executions carried out. And those stays have been issued by a court of criminal appeals known for routinely rubberstamping executions.

Although we expect Texas to carry out further executions in the last quarter of this year, the decline of the death penalty in this state that has executed more than five times as many people as the next killingest state, provides a barometer of what's happening throughout the country. It's good news.

As well as watching Texas, we've been watching the upcoming elections. With ballot measures and referendums on the death penalty in California, Nebraska and Oklahoma, plus a presidential election that will determine the fate of the Supreme Court, much hangs in the balance. This month, we turn the spotlight on Nebraska.
What I'm reading...
Last year, as we fought to keep Richard Glossip from being executed, his appeal on the constitutionality of Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol met with a rebuff from the (then) conservative-dominated Supreme Court. Despite this setback, the case of Glossip v. Gross marked a huge milestone for opponents of the death penalty, and that milestone was the extraordinary dissent of Justice Stephen Breyer. Breyer's dissent picked to pieces not merely the constitutionality of lethal injections but our entire capital punishment system.

This new book, Against the Death Penalty, contains the full text of Breyer's monumental dissent, extensive notes and an introduction that describes the history of challenges to the constitutionality of the death penalty.

I urge you to read it!

From the heart,


Executions in Decline

After the death penalty was reintroduced in 1976, the number of executions rose rapidly until 1999, when 98 executions were carried out. Since that year, there have been fewer and fewer executions each year, with 2016 on track to set a new low for this century. The number of death sentences handed down has followed a similar pattern. (Click the graph to view it full size.)

Meantime, in Texas, the pattern of exections has followed a similar path. Texas has long had a reputation for undisputed efficiency in killing its citizens, having executed more than five times the number as its nearest rival, Oklahoma. But now prosecutors in Texas are showing some reluctance to push for death sentences, juries are more reluctant to hand them out, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is showing a surprising willingness to issue stays in cases based on a wide variety of issues ranging from prosecutorial misconduct to mental competence.


Nebraska: where to retain is to repeal

This November, voters will make decisions about the future of the death penalty in four referendums being held in three different states: California, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. Each month we are sharing some information with you about the referendums in each state. Last month we focused on California; this month it's Nebraska's turn.

The words "death penalty" and "repeal" are usually used together to mean the abolition of capital punishment. But in November in Nebraska, voters who wish to see an end to capital punishment in that state will need to cast a retain vote in Referendum No. 426. A repeal vote will see executions continue.

The confusing wording for Referendum No. 426 is partly a result of legal requirements on referendum wording and partly due to the course of events leading up to that referendum.

Repeal came first
It was just over a year ago, in May of 2015, that Nebraska’s Unicameral legislature voted to abolish the death penalty. Governor Pete Ricketts had vetoed the bill, but the legislature pulled together and overrode the veto. The death penalty repeal vote was particularly notable because Nebraska became
the first Republican-controlled state to ban executions in over 40 years.

Then came a campaign to "repeal the repeal"
In the wake of the death penalty repeal, several wealthy Nebraskans including Gov. Ricketts himself funded a referendum drive to put the death penalty on the November 2016 ballot. That referendum petition was successful.
Now a referendum to "retain the repeal of the death penalty"
Now Nebraska voters must choose whether to leave capital punishment in the past or to revive a broken piece of the criminal justice system.

When it comes to filling out the ballot paper on November 8, voters will be asked to choose either to retain the repeal of the death penalty or to repeal the repeal of the death penalty.

If that sounds confusing, it is! And although the explanatory paragraphs on the ballot paper do a good job of untangling the choices, that old familiar word association of "repeal" and "death penalty" is sure to trip up voters who fail to read their ballot paper very carefully. [Click the image to the right to view the complete wording.]

Voter education crucial
Due to the confusing nature of this referendum question, voter education in Nebraska will be vital. The
Retain a Just Nebraska campaign is leading the charge, along with partners such as Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Catholic Mobilizing Network, Equal Justice USA, and Journey of Hope. Death row exonerees, murder victim family members, attorneys, economists, legislators, and many others have signed on in support of the effort to leave the death penalty in Nebraska’s past. You can join them by signing up here and by following Retain a Just Nebraska on Facebook and Twitter.

In summary
A “retain” vote means the death penalty remains abolished and a “repeal” vote means the death penalty is reinstated as a punishment in Nebraska. (More


Upcoming Executions

5             TX          Barney Fuller
19           TX          Terry Darnell Edwards

2             TX          Ramiro Gonzales
3             AL          Tommy Arthur

7             AL          Ron Smith
8             TX          John Battaglia


We’d love to hear from you.

Let us know what you’d like to see in future editions of Death Penalty Discourse, what tools and resources you’re using in your community, and how Dead Man Walking has impacted your life. Contact us by email and like us on Facebook for updates and current news.


Copyright © 2016 Ministry Against the Death Penalty, All rights reserved.

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