TIME Crime

Nebraska Considers Eliminating the Death Penalty

Miriam Thimm Kelle, left, whose brother James Thimm was tortured and killed on a southeast Nebraska farm in 1985, is hugged by Byron Peterson of Scottsbluff, after she testified in favor of a law proposal to change the death penalty to life imprisonment without parole, during a hearing before the Judiciary Committee in Lincoln, Neb., March 4, 2015.
Nati Harnik—AP Miriam Thimm Kelle, left, whose brother James Thimm was tortured and killed on a southeast Nebraska farm in 1985, is hugged by Byron Peterson of Scottsbluff, after she testified in favor of a law proposal to change the death penalty to life imprisonment without parole, during a hearing before the Judiciary Committee in Lincoln, Neb., March 4, 2015.

With support from Republican lawmakers

Nebraska legislators are considering a bill that would eliminate the state’s death penalty, receiving significant support from Republican lawmakers and family members of murder victims.

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Dozens of people rallied at the Capitol in Lincoln, Neb., Wednesday night in support of a bill that would do away with death sentences,the Associated Press reports, and replace them with life without the possibility of parole.

More than two dozen relatives of murder victims signed a letter supporting the bill, saying that the time between a conviction and an actual execution can be painful for families who see their loved one’s name appear in the news during appeals and often decades-long delays.

MORE: Ohio Looks to Shield Lethal Injection Drugmakers

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, an Independent, has worked to eliminate the state’s death penalty for years but appears to have more support this time around, especially from Republicans who make up the majority of the state’s nonpartisan legislature. The Journal Star reports that seven GOP senators have signed onto the bill.

While the legislation will likely make it out of committee, the bill may still face a veto if passed from Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who has supported the death penalty in the past.

Since 2007, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland have eliminated the death penalty, and currently 32 states still enforce capital punishment. Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf put an effective moratorium on executions in the state in part over fears of putting innocent people to death.

Nebraska currently has 11 people on death row.

[AP]

TIME nebraska

Federal Judge Blocks Nebraska’s Gay Marriage Ban

The decision will not take effect until March 9

(OMAHA, Neb.) — A federal judge has blocked Nebraska’s gay marriage ban, but the decision will not take effect until March 9.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon on Monday ordered the state to not enforce its ban.

Seven same-sex couples filed a lawsuit last year challenging the state’s voter-backed ban. Last week, Bataillon heard arguments for and against a motion for an injunction to block enforcement of the ban while the lawsuit is pending.

The Nebraska Attorney General’s office has said it will appeal any decision blocking or overturning the voter-approved ban on gay marriage.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Jan. 17 that it would decide whether same-sex couples have a right to marry under the Constitution. A decision is expected by late June.

 

TIME Laws

24/7 Bars in Nebraska? A New Bill Would Allow It

Beers
Getty Images

No more last calls in the Cornhusker State, if bill passes

A Nebraska state senator introduced legislation Thursday that would allow bars in the state to stay open all night.

State and local laws generally require Nebraska’s bars to stop serving alcohol at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, state law requires bars to close at 1 a.m., but local governments can extend those hours to 2 a.m. through a supermajority vote.

But Sen. Tyson Larson, who introduced the bill, wants to change all that. The state senator told the Journal Star that getting rid of last call would prevent bars from “dumping too many people in the street all at once” while saying the move aligned with the “concept of free market.”

If the bill passes, Nebraska would join Louisiana and Nevada, two states that don’t require bars to have last call.

(READ NEXT: The History of Poisoned Alcohol Includes an Unlikely Culprit: the U.S. Government)

TIME Law

Nebraska and Oklahoma Are Trying to Kill Colorado’s Buzz

By suing over Colorado's legalization of marijuana

Two neighbors of Colorado filed suit against the state on Thursday, claiming its legalization of marijuana has pushed some of the drug over state lines and asking the Supreme Court to strike the law down.

Attorneys general in Nebraska and Oklahoma allege that Colorado’s legalization violates the Supremacy clause of the constitution, which specifies that federal law takes precedence over state law. “Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining Plaintiff States’ own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems,” the suit alleges, according to the Denver Post.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said at a news conference that pot from Colorado has been turning up at Nebraska’s border, which has led to an increase in arrest and prosecutions. “Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost,” Bruning said, according to the Omaha World-Herald, adding that “federal law undisputedly prohibits the production and sale of marijuana.”

Kevin A. Sabet, President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a bipartisan organization made up of mental and public health professionals, supports the lawsuit. “We support this action by the attorneys general of Oklahoma and Nebraska because Colorado’s decisions regarding marijuana are not without consequences to neighboring states, and indeed all Americans,” Sabet said said. “The legalization of marijuana is clearly in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and is not implemented in a vacuum.” Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM, seeks a “middle road between incarceration and legalization” in dealing with pot offenses.

Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers said in a statement that he plans to defend the state’s marijuana laws in court. “It appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado,” he said. “We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court.”

TIME ebola

Nebraska Hospital Recalls ‘Heroic Effort’ to Save Ebola Victim Martin Salia

Doctor Being Treated For Ebola In Nebraska Dies Of Virus
Handout—Getty Images FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE - APRIL 5, 2014: In this handout provided by the United Methodist News Service, surgeon Dr. Martin Salia, poses for a photo at the United Methodist Church's Kissy Hospital April 5, 2014 outside Freetown, Sierra Leone. Salia, was flown to Omaha, Nebraska from Sierra Leone for treatment at the medical center's specialized bio-containment unit after testing positive for Ebola. According to the Medical Cental Martin Salia died on November 17, 2014 as a result of the advanced symptoms of the disease. (Photo by Mike DuBose/United Methodist News Service via Getty Images)

Doctor arrived critically ill from Sierra Leone on Saturday

Doctors in Omaha who helped to treat a surgeon who had contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone said at a news conference Monday that the virus had progressed too far for him to be saved.

Nebraska Medical Center called its treatment of Dr. Martin Salia a “heroic effort.” Salia arrived critically ill on Saturday and was given the experimental drug ZMapp as well as a transfusion of blood from someone who had survived the disease. The hospital, which had previously treated two other cases successfully, did not disclose the donor.

“Even though this was the best possible place for a patient, at the very advanced stages, even the most modern techniques that we have at our disposal are not enough to treat these patients,” said a hospital representative involved in Salia’s care during the news conference.

Salia was said to have no kidney function, working extremely hard to breathe and was unresponsive. The hospital placed Salia on dialysis but he eventually went into complete respiratory failure. He had severely low blood pressure and progressed to cardiac arrest. He died around 4 a.m. on Monday.

“It was an absolute honor to care for Dr. Salia,” said one of the nurses involved in his care.

The White House issued a statement after news of Salia’s death became public: “Dr. Salia’s passing is another reminder of the human toll of this disease and of the continued imperative to tackle this epidemic on the frontlines, where Dr. Salia was engaged in his calling.”

More than 5,000 people have died in the Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organization reports, including at least 324 health care workers.

TIME ebola

Ebola Survivor Speaks Out: ‘Blessed to Be Alive’

American video journalist Ashoka Mukpo at an iron ore mining camp in Bong County, Liberia in Aug. 2013
Philip Marcelo—AP American video journalist Ashoka Mukpo at an iron ore mining camp in Bong County, Liberia in Aug. 2013

Ebola survivor and NBC freelancer Ashoka Mukpo says “today is a joyful day,” in a statement he released Wednesday about his recovery.

Mukpo, who was infected with Ebola while working in Liberia, was evacuated to Nebraska Medical Center for treatment. “I owe this staff a debt I can’t ever repay,” said Mukpo in a statement.

The fact that Mukpo was able to be treated in America is a circumstance that weighs on him, he writes: “I feel profoundly blessed to be alive, and in the same breath aware of the global inequalities that allowed me to be flown to an American hospital when so many Liberians die alone with minimal care.” He thanked everyone from the United States State Department, to Doctors Without Borders to NBC.

He paid a special thanks to fellow survivor Dr. Kent Brantly, who donated blood to Mukpo. “May his health flourish and his compassion be known to all,” said Mukpo.

Mukpo was declared free of Ebola and released from the hospital on Oct. 21. It’s unclear how exactly he was infected with the disease. Mukpo says he plans to discuss his experience in writing, and will talk to media, but for now he is spending time with his family and asks for privacy.

You can read his full statement here.

TIME ebola

Third American Ebola Patient Arrives in Omaha

The ambulance transporting Dr. Rick Sacra, 51, who was infected with Ebola while serving as an obstetrician in Liberia, arrives to the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Neb., Sept. 5, 2014.
Nati Harnik—AP The ambulance transporting Dr. Rick Sacra, 51, who was infected with Ebola while serving as an obstetrician in Liberia, arrives to the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Neb., Sept. 5, 2014.

The American missionary became infected after delivering babies in Liberia

The third American known to have contracted the Ebola virus has arrived in Omaha, Nebraska for treatment.

Dr. Richard A Sacra, 51, fell ill with the disease while working as missionary delivering babies in Liberia, one of the West African countries worst hit by a recent Ebola outbreak. The Massachusetts man will receive treatment at the Nebraska Medial Center, which has the largest bio-containment unit in the United States.

The medical facility is one of only four in the U.S. with the special equipment needed to safely care for people with dangerous contagious diseases like ebola.

Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA, the missionary group for whom Sacra works, made a statement thanking the many parties involved in Sacra’s evacuation from Liberia. “The logistics and coordination were complex. We give praise to God that it came together so quickly and seamlessly,” he said. “Rick will be embarrassed when he finds out about all the attention.”

Little is known at present about Sacra’s condition, but officials say he was able to walk onto the plane that transported him to Omaha and is in good spirits, reports local ABC affiliate KETV.

“We are really encouraged by that news and looking forward to reuniting with him,” said Sacra’s wife, Debbie.

Ebola has spread rapidly through west Africa in recent months, killing more than 1,900 people.

[KETV]

TIME Crime

COPS Crewmember Dies After Being Shot By Police During Robbery

Bryce Dion, 38, died Wednesday following a shootout in an Omaha Wendy's late Tuesday

A crewmember working for the television show COPS was killed Wednesday after being shot by police responding to an armed robbery at an Omaha, Nebraska fast food restaurant.

Officers called to the Tuesday night theft fired over 30 shots into the Wendy’s restaurant, according to the Omaha World Herald. The robbery suspect, later identified by local officials as Cortez Washington, was reportedly holding an plastic pellet gun which officers mistook for a lethal weapon. Washington, 32, was killed in the shooting, as was Bryce Dion, 38, the COPS crewmember.

At a press conference in Omaha on Wednesday, representatives from Langley Productions, which produces COPS, said Dion was “one of our best guys.” The Langley spokesperson added that Dion was “very talented” and “very dedicated to his job.”

COPS is a long-running show, formerly on Fox and now on Spike, which documents real-world police activities.

[Omaha World Herald]

MONEY Autos

WATCH: Secret Shopper at Cadillac Dealership Turns Out to Be Warren Buffett

Buffett was so pleased he sent a letter to GM CEO Mary Barra to compliment the service his daughter received at an Omaha Cadillac dealership.

TIME Appreciation

Nebraska Firm Pays Out $61K in Bonuses Exclusively in $2 Bills

24820744
Getty Images Two dollar bill

If your grandpa gave bonuses, this would be how he'd do it

It turns out that Nebraska-based Hornady Manufacturing is the kooky grandpa of the business world. Why? Because the ammunition manufacturer gave its 300-plus employees $61,000 in bonus money exclusively in $2 bills.

But unlike the $2 bills Pop-Pop gave you when you were good last Christmas, these bills aren’t meant to be hoarded in your special drawer.

“Two years ago, we caught a lot of flack from the city council and some people in the city of Grand Island for how we don’t support the community and we don’t do things around here, which we disagreed with… [it] kind of hurt our feelings,” VP Jason Hornady told Omaha.com. And so, to prove a point, he is asking employees to spend the bills at local businesses.

“If people look at you funny, tell them where you work, and we think that they will notice,” said the vice president, whose company slogan promises dependability (as well as accuracy and deadliness).

Hornady’s father, Steve, had done a similar bit with $1 coins a few years ago, but surely asking employees to lug those things around is just cruel.

Hornady also clarified that employees aren’t only getting paid in Monopoly money. “They also receive a nice check and a deposit into their 401(k)s,” that they can spend wherever.

Bonuses reportedly total 40% of employees’ regular pay.

[Omaha.com]

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