Nebraska's North Platte Telegraph publishes the editorial, "The high cost of killing people."
A ballot referendum to be decided Nov. 6 in California makes a case we have made many times on this page, and should resonate with the 33 states, including Nebraska, that still have the death penalty on their statute books.
Voters in California will decide whether to abolish the death penalty, based primarily on economic grounds, and substitute life in prison without possibility of parole.
Here in Nebraska, there are currently 11 inmates awaiting execution. The last execution took place 15 years ago, and there have been three since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
Perhaps the most famous inmate executed was Charlie Starkwheather, whose murder spree in December 1957 and January 1958 resulted in his relatively speedy electrocution in June of 1959. The appeals process never goes that quickly these days, explaining much of the astronomical cost of executions.
Another notable execution in Nebraska was that of William Marion, who was hanged in 1887. His supposed victim turned up alive in 1891, and in 1987, 100 years after his execution, Marion was the lucky recipient of a pardon from the state. One might be tempted to say, "Oops."
In New Hampshire, Rabbi Robin Nafshi writes the OpEd, "It’s time for state to repeal death penalty," for the Concord Monitor.
On Sept. 30, the Monitor reported that Republican Rep. Steve Vaillancourt of Manchester had filed a bill in anticipation of the upcoming legislative session that would repeal the death penalty.
I applaud Vaillancourt’s efforts. The death penalty has no place in civilized society.
Many Granite Staters feel very strongly that because the death penalty is found in the Bible it is a valid punishment. I therefore wish to offer some insights into the biblical application of the death penalty.
The Bible – what Jews call the Hebrew Bible and others call the Old Testament – lists at least 21 offenses that are punishable by death. Yet, within the Bible itself we see no actual application of the death penalty. In fact, approximately 2,000 years ago, the ancient rabbis whose responsibility it was to interpret the laws of the Bible concluded that application of the death penalty had never occurred in the Bible. They ruled that going forward, in order to apply the death penalty, the prosecution would have to prove that:
∎ a witness saw an individual about to commit a crime for which the punishment was death;
∎ the witness would have to warn the person not to;
∎ the person committed the crime nonetheless;
∎ and a minimum of two witnesses saw the person commit the crime.
In other words, they created a standard making application of the death penalty virtually impossible. The rabbis stated specifically, “Perhaps a witness testifies that he saw a man running after his fellow into a ruin, the witness pursued him and found him with a sword in his hand dripping with blood while the murdered man was writhing in agony. If this is what you saw,” the Rabbis say, “then you saw nothing.” (Talmud Sanhedrin 37b)
Jews, like other religious people, are not of one mind. We have divided ourselves into four denominations and we frequently disagree on issues.
On the death penalty, however, we are united in our opposition.