|Executioners control panel for lethal injection|
Photo by David from Washington, DC
PRESS CONFERENCE WITH GOVERNOR RICKETTS
Reporter #1: Governor, Nebraska is the latest state to repeal capital punishment, now that the legislature has overridden your veto. You’ve said you’re still going to go ahead and execute the ten people already on death row here. None of the other eighteen states that have done away with capital punishment have executed anyone after their new law passed. Why are you so hellbent on executing people?
Governor: Look at it this way, Chet: if the state’s chief executive can’t execute, what’s the point?
Reporter #2: Since 1973, there have been 143 prisoners on death row in the U.S. who were found to be innocent of the crime for which they were convicted. Doesn’t that make you just a little uneasy?
Governor: Not at all, Danny. I don’t second guess the justice system--just the legislature.
Reporter #2: But obviously people who do second guess the justice system have found a lot of mistakes and wrongful convictions.
Governor: So be it. Nobody likes a Monday-morning quarterback.
Reporter #3: Almost all the prisoners on death row, here and around the country, are poor, uneducated, black, Hispanic, or some combination of those things, Governor. Are you comfortable with the way income, education, and race seem to affect who gets the death penalty?
Governor: Not as long as I’m rich, educated, white, and a home-grown English speaker, Marcia. (Has a second thought) Don’t quote me on that.
Reporter #4: Governor, how do you explain all these legislators who voted to do away with the death penalty? Most of them are well-off, educated, white, English-speaking conservatives, just like yourself. But they opposed you on this capital punishment thing. They argued that the death penalty is horribly expensive, is ineffective as a deterrent, puts the lives of innocent people at risk, and gives government too much unnecessary power.
Governor: What you have to understand, Glen, is that we conservatives say we don’t like government spending, but the fact is we’ll pour money into things that matter. (Delivers standard applause line) And what matters the most is security: protecting the people of this great state and country from murderers at home and abroad.
Reporter #3: But if you execute these ten people--or even one of them, as far as that goes--doesn’t that make you one of those murderers we need to protect ourselves against?
Governor: (Exasperated) Where do you people come up with ideas like that? Executions aren’t murders, Marcia. The first is legal and good, the other is illegal and evil.
Reporter #3: But as I understand it, Governor, the legislature just decided executions are not legal and not good.
Governor: That may be their opinion going forward, but it’s not retroactive.
Reporter #2: Still, doesn’t it make sense that you’d honor the spirit of their decision?
Governor: They have their spirit; I have mine. And as long as I’m the governor, mine’s the one that counts. (Glances at his watch) Okay, we’ve got time for one more question. (Points to a reporter who has his hand up) Larry?
Reporter #5: Speaking of spirit, Governor, you’re a Roman Catholic. (Consults his notes) The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has opposed the death penalty for the last 38 years, saying that we can’t defend life by taking life. The Catholic bishops here in Nebraska have issued a joint statement calling for the end of capital punishment. And Pope Francis called on all men and women of good will to help abolish the death penalty in all of its forms.
Governor: So what’s your question, Larry?
© Tony Russell, 2015