Archive for the ‘Nebraska’ Tag
New Mexico’s governor, Bill Richardson, signed a bill that abolishes capital punishment in that state—at least henceforth; the two people currently on death row in the Land of Enchantment will stay there. For crimes committed after 1 July of this year the maximum penalty will be life in prison without the possibility of parole.
New Mexico is the second state to abolish capital punishment since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976. New Jersey did so in 2007. The state used the death penalty very sparringly, only executing one person since 1960.
Richardson said that over 12,000 people contacted his office by phone, e-mail, snail mail, or in person; over three-quarters supported repeal. While he used to support capital punishment, he cites the possibility of executing an innocent person and the racial disparity in the penalty’s application as reasons for abolishing it.
There are now 15 states without the death penalty; two of them, Nebraska and New York, had existing statutes declared unconstitutional by their Supreme Courts and have yet to pass new laws. About 22.25% of all Americans live in a state without the death penalty. Many others, including Maryland, are considering abolishing it.
About a year ago, Ernie Chambers, then a long-serving member of Nebraska’s unicameral state legislature, filed a lawsuit against God. He was seeking “a permanent injunction” to “cease certain harmful activities and the making of terroristic threats…of grave harm to innumerable persons, including constituents of Plaintiff who Plaintiff has the duty to represent.” These activities allegedly included:
fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, devastating droughts, genocidal wars, birth defects and the like. …[Often causing] calamitous catastrophes resulting in the wide-spread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants including innocent babes, infants, children, the aged and infirm without mercy or distinction. …[And] has manifested neither compassion nor remorse, proclaiming that defendant will laugh [Proverbs 1:26].
His filing indicate that “Plaintiff, despite reasonable efforts to effectuate personal service upon defendant ‘Come out, come out, wherever you are,’ has been unable to do so.” He said that this failure to serve process in a normal manner shouldn’t prevent the suit from going forward, since the defendant could be presumed to have knowledge of the suit. Somehow, I don’t think this is what C.S. Lewis had in mind when he wrote God in the Dock.
Some anonymous people filed motions for the defendant and one even filed a countersuit. However, this week Mr. Chambers’s suit was dismissed with prejudice (meaning he can’t refile it), ruling that God wasn’t properly served due to his unlisted home address. Chambers responded by saying “the court itself acknowledges the existence of God. A consequence of that acknowledgment is a recognition of God’s omniscience. Since God knows everything, God has notice of this lawsuit.” Chambers, who is listed as an agnostic on his Wikipedia page (which gives lots of information about the interesting case), has filed a notice of appeal—taking the suit to a higher authority, as it were.
The plaintiff, a member of the legislature’s judiciary committee, filed his suit to protest recent court rulings that made it, in his view, too easy for frivolous lawsuits to be filed. He wanted to demonstrate that anyone could sue anyone else with far too much ease in Nebraska. I guess that makes him an advocate of tort reform.
Chambers, who represented the Omaha area for 38 years in the Nebraska Senate, was forced out of office this past April by a term limits law passed in 2000. He would have likely won re-election if allowed to continue in office.