The Judiciary Committee voted Friday to send a bill to the full Legislature that would eliminate the death penalty.
The committee voted 5-2, with Sens. Julie Slama of Peru and Tom Brandt of Plymouth voting no. Sen. Wendy DeBoer of Bennington was absent and not voting.
During a hearing earlier this month on the bill (LB44), introduced by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, a number of opponents questioned why it would be introduced when Nebraska voters rejected the Legislature's 2015 repeal of the death penalty by a 61 percent to 39 percent margin. And 92 of 93 counties said no to repeal.
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Chambers has made the bill a priority, and because of that it would be expected to be debated. He said at the hearing that as long as he's in the Legislature, he's not going to be bound by the vote of people when it comes to a matter of conscience, human dignity, respect for all living things.
The committee also forwarded a bill (LB352), introduced by Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, with amendments, that would improve transparency and protections against false jailhouse witness testimony. The vote was 6-0, with Slama present-not voting and DeBoer absent.
And it advanced a bill (LB231), introduced by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, on a 6-0 vote, that would call for appointing an attorney for juveniles who appear in court. At the first court appearance, the court would have to inform the juvenile and his or her parents or guardian of the right to continued representation.
The bill also would create the Juvenile Indigent Defense Fund to assist counties in their obligation to provide legal counsel for indigent juveniles. The bill would establish a $1 court fee to fund the Juvenile Indigent Defense Fund.
Slama was present-not voting and DeBoer absent.