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Families of victims urge an end to Nebraska’s death penalty

Families in the Nebraska CapitolAt a morning press conference, relatives of homicide victims gathered in the rotunda of the Nebraska Capitol to show their support for repeal of the state’s death penalty.

“I know first hand how Nebraska’s death penalty is a false promise to victims,” said Miriam Thimm Kelle, who described Nebraska’s system as a “purgatory” for victims’ families who are forced to see offenders made celebrities while they slowly works their way through the court system.

Kelle’s brother, Jim, was brutally tortured and murdered in 1982. Cult leader Michael Ryan was convicted and sentenced to death for Jim’s murder. For almost 30 years, Kelle and her family have returned to court for hearing after hearing. “I would give anything to go back in time and change that death sentence to life imprisonment…[W]e could have left the legal system behind thirty years ago and been able to focus our energy on our family and our grief.”

Justice Stevens acknowledges execution of an innocent man

John Paul StevensLast month at the University of Florida, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced that he believes “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that Texas executed an innocent man. Justice Stevens concluded that the death penalty should be repealed to prevent the risk of executing another innocent person.

“Society should not take the risk that [this] might happen again,” Stevens said, “because it's intolerable to think that our government, for really not very powerful reasons, runs the risk of executing innocent people.”

Oklahoma and Ohio executions on hold over lethal injection

Supreme Court BuildingOhio made national news last January after a new lethal injection drug led to a botched execution. Since then, Ohio’s executions have been repeatedly delayed. In October, a federal judge officially stayed all executions until the beginning of 2015, while the state attempted to address ongoing challenges to its lethal injection process.

Now, Ohio Governor John Kasich has announced there will be no executions in 2015.

Oklahoma’s executions are facing similar challenges. Last April, the execution of Clayton Lockett shocked the nation when witnesses saw him writhing in pain after he was supposed to be unconscious. Executions were delayed there as well, resuming just last month. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has stayed all upcoming executions in Oklahoma while it reviews the specific method used there.

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