Gov. Pete Ricketts is pleased voters will decide whether Nebraska retains the death penalty even as the state struggles to import the drugs necessary to carry out lethal injections.
The Secretary of State’s office has announced a referendum petition drive succeeded in gathering the signatures needed to place the death penalty on the November 2016 ballot.
“Again, the death penalty is a difficult issue. No one wants to put anybody to death,” Ricketts tells reporters during a news conference. “But, the fact of the matter is, we have dangerous people in our society and, in fact, I think specifically about our Corrections officers who deal with the dangerous inmates we have. We know there are dangerous people in prison. We put them there. And, I believe, that this is an opportunity for Nebraskans to have the ability to vote whether or not they want to retain capital punishment as part of our overall public safety program here in the state.”
The petition drive also gathered enough signatures to prevent LB 268, the Unicameral’s repeal of the death penalty, from taking effect.
Will Ricketts push to move forward with executions prior to next year’s vote?
“Well, one step at a time. Right now, we’re still working with the DEA on bringing in the drugs and we’ll take it one step at a time,” Ricketts says. “We still have work to do there.”
Officials with the federal Food and Drug Administration have so far blocked Nebraska’s attempt to import the drugs needed for lethal injection. The state has paid $54,400 to a drug broker in India for sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide. Nebraska’s supply of those drugs has expired.
As for the upcoming campaign, Ricketts says it’s hard to predict how it will take shape.
“Well, I don’t know what either the opponents or proponents are going to do with regard to a campaign, but certainly I will continue to voice my strong support for retaining the death penalty here in our state,” Ricketts says. “Again, I think it’s an important tool to protect our law enforcement officers. We need to protect the people who protect us. And we need to have a sanction beyond just life in prison.”