Former death row inmate, wrongfully convicted, to speak in Omaha

From the Lincoln Journal Star:

Nebraska Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty and the Creighton University chapters of the Young Americans for Liberty and Students for Life will host an evening of discussion with former death row inmate Ray Krone Tuesday, March 31, 2015, in Omaha.
A lifelong Republican and an Air Force veteran, Krone was a death penalty supporter until he was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1992 and sentenced to death in Arizona. A decade later, DNA tests proved his innocence and led authorities to the actual killer.

Read more about the event.

Update on Steve Larrick and his NRD Board Seat

Thank you to everyone who responded with offers of support during the controversy over Steve’s NRD Subdistrict 5 Director’s seat. Tim Johnson wrote the following LJS letter:

“I have known Steve Larrick and consider him a friend. I know he cares deeply about our environment and has done great work on behalf of the NRD board. Some of his ideas are ahead of their time. Is it too late to suggest Skype participation for board meetings while Steve is in China?”

Thanks to Paul Olson, Cecil Steward, and others who volunteered to be witnesses at Steve’s March 18, 2015, hearing. The public was not invited to speak. The proceedings were set up just like a trial. Only called witnesses could speak, and they had to be present to do so in person. Steve would be allowed his own attorney, and could speak via Skype at the “hearing,” but we were advised it is “against the law” to attend meetings via video conferencing.

Meanwhile, Steve received the following news outlining a new million dollar plan to study and take action on reducing the threat of flooding along Salt Creek. This new initiative has long been a top priority for Steve. The project was launched on Wednesday, the same day as Steve’s hearing. Steve is very pleased with news that NRD will move forward with Salt Creek protection. As a result, he advised the board he would not distract from the March 18 project launch. He has resigned his seat and hopes the board will make wise decisions in the future. Meanwhile, Steve can move on to being fully present in China for the duration of his commitment teaching English there.

–MJ Berry

Online petition: Don’t frack our water!

From BOLD Nebraska and the Sierra Club’s Nebraska Chapter:

The Nebraska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission is attempting to silence the voices of concerned citizens, farmers and ranchers by strictly limiting who can testify at Tuesday’s public hearing on a proposed toxic fracking wastewater disposal well in Sioux County, Nebraska — exported pollution that would forever endanger the Ogallala aquifer we all depend on.

One of the three members of the Commission, Tom Oliver, recently told the Scottsbluff Star-Herald: “It’s not just a public meeting where people can get up and give comments,” adding that only those who “own property within a half mile” of the proposed well will be able to testify.

This is unacceptable. Local citizens whose primary roads would be overwhelmed by 80 tanker truckloads of toxic wastewater delivered every day deserve to be heard. Nebraskans who don’t want to see our state and the Ogallala aquifer become a dumping ground for out-of-state toxic pollution deserve to be heard.  Whether we’re allowed to testify or not, we’ll be at the hearing on Tuesday, March 24, in Sidney. Stand with us!

Read more and sign the petition.

Bill to repeal death penalty headed to full Unicameral

From the Omaha World-Herald:

LINCOLN — For likely the first time ever, a Nebraska legislative committee has given unanimous support to repealing the death penalty. On an 8-0 vote Monday, March 9, the Judiciary Committee advanced a bill to repeal capital punishment for debate by the full Legislature.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who has made ending the death penalty his top priority during four decades in office, said that 2015 presents as good a chance as ever to “get this state out of the killing business.”

Eleven other senators, including three or four who could be described as conservative Republicans, have signed on as co-sponsors to the repeal proposal, Legislative Bill 268.

Read the full story.

Also read The Case for Repeal from Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Crane Caravan Field Trip in Kearney, March 19-22

From the Wachiska Audubon Society in southeast Nebraska:

Nebraska has become internationally known for sandhill cranes; in March, tourists come  from many states and countries to view the largest sandhill crane party in the world. Don’t miss these iconic migrants as they pause at their ancestral Platte River during a sort of annual spring break for cranes. A full weekend of fun is available during Audubon’s Nebraska Crane Festival in Kearney March 19 – 22, or if you prefer an afternoon expedition, join Wachiska Audubon’s crane caravan to the Grand Island area. We’ll use our cars as blinds as we view flocks of cranes feeding, stick-tossing, and dancing in the fields. A late afternoon stop at the visitor center will give us an opportunity for a little break. We’ll then head to the Platte River at sunset to watch their epic arrival as throngs of cranes stream through the sky and amass on the river to roost for the night.

Read more in the Society’s March 2015 newsletter, The Babbling Brook.

Families of murder victims call for death penalty repeal

From the Associated Press:

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Family members of murder victims called on Nebraska lawmakers Wednesday, March 4, to abolish the death penalty in the state, saying it prolongs the suffering of the relatives of those who died and wastes tax dollars on endless appeals.

Several dozen people rallied at the Capitol in advance of a legislative hearing on a bill that would end capital punishment. Death-penalty opponents circulated a letter signed by 25 relatives of murder victims.

Read coverage of the hearing in:

Judge strikes down Nebraska’s same-sex marriage ban

From the Lincoln Journal Star:

A U.S. district judge Monday struck down Nebraska’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, setting the stage for county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses next week.

The state quickly scrambled to request a stay that would delay the March 9 date Judge Joseph Bataillon set for his order to go into effect.

In the order posted early Monday, Bataillon called section 29 of the state Constitution — Nebraska’s Defense of Marriage act — an “unabashedly gender-specific infringement of the equal rights of its citizens.”

Approved by 70 percent of voters in 2000, the ban defines a valid marriage as one between a man and a woman.

The state has the right to encourage couples to marry and provide support for one another, the judge wrote.

“However, those laws must be enforced equally and without respect to gender. It is time to bring this unequal provision to an end.”

Read the full story.

Steve Larrick: My motivation for seeking leave

From Steve Larrick, board member for the Lower Platte South Natural Resource District, writing in the Lincoln Journal Star:

The Lincoln Journal Star editorial titled “Larrick Should Step Down” (2/23) makes some good points, but is also disappointing. Its theme is doing the “honorable” thing, but the editors never contacted me for my perspective before questioning my honor in a story line replicated by newspapers across the state. Is that honorable journalism?

Thankfully, it notes that “in the grand scheme of things,” a large board of 21 members (and an excellent staff, I might add), assures that the Lower Platte South Natural Resource District is not endangered by a few temporary absences. But by not asking me questions, the editors fail to identify my motivations for seeking a leave and simply suggest that my only “honorable choice” was to abandon the seat to which I was elected.

Read the full op-ed at


Hear Leonard Pitts Jr. at workshop in Lincoln, April 12

From the Interfaith Peacemaking Coalition:

SAVE THE DATE: Leonard Pitts will keynote this year’s Interfaith Peacemaking Workshop, First United Methodist Church, 2723 N. 50th St., Lincoln, NE, 1:00 to 5:30 p.m., on April 12th.

Leonard Pitts will speak for about 45 minutes, followed by time to view exhibits. There then will be five break-out sessions:

  • 1.1: Implicit Bias; Anna Shavers, UNL Law College.
  • 1.2: Unconscious Bias; Karen Starkweather, Center for Rural Affairs.
  • 2: Three Barriers to Re-entry from Prison to Civilian Life; Larry Wayne, Corrections Dept.; Katrina Thomas, reentrant; and Jim Jones, Oasis.
  • 3. Youth Organizing for Social Change; Vernee Norman, Union College; Keiana Thomas, UNL.
  • 4. Poverty and Organizing for Inclusive Community: Economic Justice; State Sen. Patti Pansing Brooks; Beatty Brasch, Center for People in Need.
  • 5. Racial Profiling in Nebraska; Rebessa Conzales, Appleseed Center; Bennie Shobe, NAACP; Amy Miller, ACLU.

Check out the Facebook event page.

Join NADP’s Lobby Day, March 4

From Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty:

Join NADP’s Lobby Day, March 4th, 2015, at the State Capitol. Rally and lobby training begin at 10 a.m. Join a luncheon with senators at 11:45. The Judiciary Committee hearing begins at 1:30 p.m. (Remember, no T-shirts with writing in the Capitol; NADP will distribute repeal buttons.) Come and show your support for the cause. This could be the year!

Read more and RSVP.