Chambers: change language surrounding death penalty - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE; KLKNTV.com

Chambers: change language surrounding death penalty

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By: Cole Miller
cmiller@klkntv.com

Omaha senator Ernie Chambers says its time to do away with confusing language surrounding the death penalty.

It's a hot topic that's been dividing people for decades. We're talking about the death penalty.

On Friday, Chambers, a known opponent of the death penalty, laid out his plan to do away with certain language surrounding the issue and how people are sentenced. It's language he says is unclear.
 
"Vagueness, indefiniteness, uncertainty are unacceptable," Chambers said.

He's referring to words like "especially heinous, atrocious or cruel" that are used in determining death penalty cases, versus not using them in other murder cases.

"The very existence of this aggravator tells some families that your loved one's murder was heinous while telling others your loved one's murder was just ordinary," Don Wesley, with Nebraskans Against the Death Penalty said. "To the mother of a murder victim, the murders are equally painful."

Among the support, there was one opponent in Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly. He says jurors are given specific instructions on the language and how to weigh it in to their decision.

Needless to say, those words got under the skin of the veteran senator.

"Well if you can't take it the way it is and win, you guys are willing to change it in order to win, huh? And winning for you means to kill somebody doesn't it?" Chambers asked of Kelly.
 
The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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