The group opposed to the death penalty is pointing to the Beatrice Six case as a reason to keep capital punishment off the books.
The six individuals were wrongfully convicted in a 1985 rape and slaying served years in prison before being exonerated.
State Senator Burke Harr, a former prosecutor who now opposes the death penalty, says nothing is perfect, including the justice system and that is why he can no longer support the death penalty as a punishment.
“When you take that ultimate step of taking someone’s life, it’s no longer beyond a reasonable doubt,” Harr told reporters at a news conference. “You have to be beyond all doubt, and I don’t think that we can meet that standard.”
Former Gage County Attorney Randall Ritnour oversaw the DNA testing that eventually cleared the six.
He says all of them were at risk of receiving the death penalty and that has prompted him to change his opinion on the punishment.
“We have the means to punish murderers and it is a life sentence without the possibility of parole,” Ritnour said at a news conference. “And let me tell you, that is a frightening aspect for anybody. If we actually used that, I think that will be as much of a deterrent, if not more so, than the death penalty.”
Ritnour says the death penalty does not deter crime and should not be used as a bargaining chip during interrogations or leading up to trial.
“If you’re not ready to take [a case] to trial, then you, as a prosecutor, have an incentive to try and use the death penalty to twist their arm to get them to plead, and that’s not the justice system. It certainly shouldn’t be the justice system.”
Ritnour spoke on behalf of Retain a Just Nebraska, which is working to keep the death penalty out of the state.
Supporters of the death penalty successfully got a referendum on November’s ballot to let voters decide the issue.