A supporter of re-instating the death penalty claims the lawsuit against the petition drive threatens more than whether the issue makes it to the ballot.
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty co-chair Don Stenberg says the lawsuit poses a simple question: who is a sponsor?
“If the lawsuit were successful every single future initiative and referendum petition would be called into question, because you could always find somebody who you could say well, they sort of look like a sponsor; they gave money or they offered advice,” Stenberg tells Nebraska Radio Network.
The lawsuit filed in Lancaster District Court asks the court to throw out the nearly 167,000 signatures gathered to place capital punishment on the ballot next November. It contends organizers failed to list Gov. Pete Ricketts as a sponsor, claiming his financial contributions and political connections with the petition qualifies him as a sponsor.
Ricketts gave $200,000 to help fund the petition drive.
Ricketts vetoed LB 268, the repeal of the death penalty. State lawmakers overrode the veto. The petition drive began shortly thereafter.
Opponents in the legislature have called the death penalty broken beyond repair, primarily pointing to the fact that Nebraska has executed anyone since 1997.
Stenberg counters that there hadn’t been an execution in 30 years when he became Attorney General in 1991.
“And we were able to bring several cases to conclusion during my time as Attorney General,” Stenberg says. “So, it’s unfortunate that there has been such a long delay, but that doesn’t mean that the system can’t work in the future.”
Judge Lori Maret has taken the case under advisement.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1 minute]