Republican and Democratic state senators met with death penalty opponents, both in Lincoln and Omaha Wednesday, claiming a pro-death penalty movement is confusing voters, leading them to believe murderers could be released without the death penalty.
Leading the meeting, were senators Colby Coash and Adam Morfeld, along with retired District Court Judge Ronald Reagan, who sentenced death row inmate, John Joubert to death for three murders back in 1997.
In unison with Retain a Just Nebraska, a campaign urging the retention of LB 268, the Nebraska Legislature’s vote to end the death penalty, the senators had one message for voters: “Life in prison, means life in prison.”
“If voters are concerned that without the death penalty those currently on death row will ever be paroled, they should simply ask the Governor or Attorney General which of the ten men on death row he is going to commute to a sentence less than life,” says Morfeld.
The Nebraska Board of Pardons, which consists of the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of State, is the only exception and can commute a life sentence to something lesser.
"I don't think it takes a political scientist or a seasoned politician to know that that's not likely and that's not going to happen for somebody who committed that heinous of a crime,” says Morfeld.
Robert Evnen, a lawyer and co-founder of the Nebraskans for the Death Penalty disagrees.
"The Pardons Board is a very powerful body - no court can review its decision. It can do whatever it wants and three years ago, it decided to commute the sentence from somebody who had been sentenced to life in prison. It happens,” says Evnen.
He says opposing advocates are quickly dismissing the reality of murderers being released on parole.
“Opponents of the death penalty say ‘well, take a look at whose on the Pardons Board, they'd never do such a thing.’ But who would've suspected that the people who were on the Pardons Board then would have done it. It's something that could happen. And they want to deny it. But they're wrong and they're misleading people about that,” says Evnen.
Both organizations said they will be campaigning hard from now until November and work to clear some of the confusion amongst voters.