Attorney General Doug Peterson is raising questions about the legality of a section of the death penalty repeal law passed by the legislature.
One section of Legislative Bill 268 states the intent of the legislature is that those on death row have their sentences commuted to life in prison.
Peterson believes that section is unconstitutional and says he will seek a court injunction to determine the fate of the 10 inmates now condemned to death.
“We think it needs to be clarified by the courts,” Peterson tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “So, we are looking at the process to move forward and seek a declaratory judgment as to what their status truly is.”
Peterson argues only the Board of Pardons is given the power to change final sentences imposed by the courts in the Nebraska Constitution.
Peterson says the courts need to decide the constitutionality of that section.
“Most likely, identifying the 10 individuals on death row and asking the court to give a declaratory judgment as to whether or not the legislature can pass this type of bill and, in effect, usurp the previous order entered by the judicial branch,” Peterson says. “So that’s our constitutional argument that we would make.”
The Unicameral enacted the repeal of the death penalty after overriding a veto by Gov. Pete Ricketts.
Peterson says his constitutional challenge is limited to that section, not the entire bill.