Nebraska Senator Bob Krist Explains Why He Said “No” to the Death Penalty

The death penalty has for years been a polarizing issue in the United States. Proponents and opponents alike have strong opinions and strong emotional responses to the issue. In May, 2015, the Nebraska legislature overrode a governor’s veto to abolish the death penalty in that state. One of the unusual aspects of this occurrence is that a conservative legislature overrode the veto of a Republican governor to eliminate the death penalty.

Senator Bob Krist

Senator Bob Krist

One of those voting to repeal the death penalty was Senator Bob Krist. In a recent opinion piece in the Omaha World-Herald, Krist explained his concerns about the death penalty Krist explains his position in this report. [Note: In his op-ed piece, Senator Krist refers to information from the Death Penalty Information Center as to the cost of carrying out executions.

Krist explains that he reached his decision on the death penalty issue based on hearing six years of data about it. Among the things that came to light are the considerable expenses of any death penalty case, from the decision to seek the penalty to the actual carrying out of it. He now supports a sentence of life without parole instead of death. “Civilized society does not need the death penalty.”

In Krist’s op-ed piece he notes that “[m]ore than 15 states have done cost studies on the death penalty.” He notes that all of them concluded that the death penalty was more expensive than life imprisonment. Krist thinks the evidence is compelling for someone who analyzes the issue on the basis of cost, and he believes other states will come to see the logic of Nebraska’s position. Of course, people who are seeking vengeance will be unlikely to consider the cost to the public.

Another aspect of carrying out the death penalty is the long string of cases challenging the way in which the penalty is carried out, in particular lethal injection. A number of states have struggled to find a lethal drug solution that would pass muster with the Supreme Court. Even if states tried to go back to the electric chair, the gas chamber, hanging, or the firing squad, there would probably continue to be challenges and problems. Krist does not believe that there will be a completely acceptable solution in his lifetime.

As to ways to reduce the expense of carrying out the death penalty, the only thing that would reduce those expenses would be to change the appeals process. Of course, there is already an extensive appeals process for all felony convictions. One important reason for all those appeals is that errors in the trial process are found. Occasionally, innocent people have been put to death. Given all of the problems that have occurred with faulty convictions, Krist says, it is difficult to draw a line after which appeals would not be allowed.

Voters in Nebraska may have the opportunity to vote on the death penalty. Krist says he supports letting the voters consider the issue. He believes that the majority of voters would support what the legislature has done.

Senator Bob Krist represents the 10th district in the Nebraska legislature. He served 21 years in the Air Force, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He held key leadership positions directing critical missions including the high-visibility Looking Glass mission at Offutt Air Force Base. He was appointed to fill a legislative vacancy in 2009 and won his election to the office in 2010. His district includes part of Omaha. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.