Efforts to end the death penalty took a monumental step forward yesterday. Despite a veto from Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, the Nebraska Legislature overrode the Governor’s veto and passed legislation repealing the state’s death penalty, making it the first red state to do so since North Dakota in the 1970s.
Think about that moment. Not only did a red state just repeal the death penalty. It had overwhelming legislative support – a veto-proof majority to be exact – for ending the practice.
Nebraska took this step because Republican senators joined a bi-partisan coalition working to repeal the death penalty. These Republicans had principled reasons for opposing the death penalty, as the lead GOP bill sponsor, Senator Colby Coash, explained:
"[Repeal of the death penalty] is consistent with my pro-life views, but it's also consistent with trying to make government more efficient. With the death penalty, taxpayers are not getting what they're paying for. If any other programs were as costly or inefficient as this, we would have gotten rid of them."
As is the case elsewhere in the country, the death penalty in Nebraska had been a failure. Nebraska had dedicated extra time and resources to a death penalty it virtually never used. The state’s last execution was in 1997 and the lack of available lethal injection drugs had made it impossible for the state to carry out executions.
Furthermore, keeping the death penalty had led to disastrous mistakes. The threat of the death penalty by prosecutors in a 1986 murder case in Beatrice, Nebraska, led to false confessions and the wrongful conviction of six individuals. DNA evidence eventually proved their innocence after over 75 years collectively in prison.
Confronted with these realities, Nebraska put an end to its death penalty. As Nebraskans were debating the death penalty this year, Young Americans for Liberty students were active hosting educational events on the issue. Death row exoneree Ray Krone visited Creighton University in an event sponsored by the Creighton YAL Chapter, and shared his experience of being wrongfully sentenced to death on the basis of faulty evidence.
Given the persistent problems plaguing the death penalty, Nebraska likely will not be the last state to scrap it. Expect more states, red and blue alike, to follow Nebraska’s lead.
It's a week before finals. Tension is rising as students clamor to gather all possible information necessary for their exams. As the desire for knowledge increases, so does desire for.. reform?
After an extensive period of waiting, the University of South Alabama's Young Americans for Liberty chapter finally received confirmation as a Student Government Association recognized student organization. The completion of the journey through the red tape safari was celebrated with the chapter's first official meeting on criminal justice - Incarceration Nation.
Humble but determined, we set up our display in the school's student center, a normally chaotic venue. The awkward chills in the midst of spring weather didn't stop students from passing our table with minds ready to absorb our information. Some were shocked when told about the alarming incarceration rates in the country they reside in. Others were aware of the crisis, dismissing the title, 'Land of the Free'.
We reassembled later that evening for our meeting. Although there was a greasy and tasty incentive, pizza, only a small group of participants came for the discussion. And discussion, there was! After giving the attendees a debrief on YAL's philosophy and long-term objectives, we dove deeper into the subject of criminal justice reform. A few of the students learned about the damage the top down structure of America's justice system where sentences are exaggerated on ill-formed policy, destroying the lives of many non-violent criminals. Some students even shared their own stories, and continued to explain how these policies have caused the demise of their own relatives.
Throughout our discussion we took the occasional detour to discuss the effects of other destructive statist policies,
People can come together no matter their political ideology for a very important issue. Yes, we held an event with a conservative group and the NAACP. At the event our members made sure to pass out the remaining YAL materials including Constitutions we had left. The event started with
Whenever a state has the power to execute, there is the potential for it to abuse this power. An abuse of this power is currently on display in Texas, which is trying to execute a man with severe mental illness.
Texas has scheduled an execution date of December 3 for Scott Panetti, who was convicted of murdering his wife’s parents in 1992. Panetti suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Prior to the murders of which he was convicted, Panetti was hospitalized over a dozen times for mental illness.
His trial left little doubt about the severe nature of his mental illness. Panetti represented himself, dressed up in a cowboy suit, and tried to subpoena Jesus Christ, John F. Kennedy, and the Pope.
The state has no justification executing someone with severe mental illness. Doing so would not make Texas safer but would rather be a
The idea of ending the War on Drugs is something that is still relatively controversial, especially in a conservative state. Many conservatives don't want to end the War on Drugs, and they feel that drugs do not have a place in their society. Although they identify as Constitutionalists and embrace small government, they fail to see how this war on members of society grows government. Our club decided to show a conservative state the error of their ways by holding an "End the Drug War" event on our campus.
Utah is one of the most supportive states in the country for the War on Drugs. According to the Libertas Institute here in Utah, well over 50% of the state's population does not support the legalization of marijuana for either recreational or medical uses. With those facts, we can only imagine that Utahns would disagree with legal drugs like cocaine and heroin. Our chapter at Southern Utah University decided to take this battle head on, and inform the community about the issues that the drug war has brought upon our society.
On November 5th our chapter hosted an "End the Drug War" event on our campus. We tabled for 3 days leading up to the event to attract a crowd and received a few negative comments from the students and community. We felt that this was an important issue to educate the community about, so we decided to continue our plans and host our event. At our table we had literature and handouts available to educate students. They were provided by the Drug Policy Alliance. Many students seemed interested in learning about our arguments, and we attracted a pretty good crowd. We were even attracted the local school paper to cover our event and help us spread the word.
Through SFL's Virtual Speaker Bureau, we were able to host Jack A. Cole, one of the founders of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), as a virtual speaker. We hosted Jack Cole through Skype, and he laid out his arguments for ending the War on Drugs. He lectured for an hour to a group of 30 students and community members. Many students found his arguments interesting, but they were still skeptical.
While we felt some negative push-back, we were happy to plant these new ideas into a conservative campus and state. We wanted to make the discussion non-taboo and noncontroversial, so by legitimizing these arguments, we are able to start a new debate in the community. We hope that this will continue to encourage change, especially in a community that doesn't want change in regard to the War on Drugs.
Over Veterans Day weekend, Paschal High School's YAL chapter hosted the first ever, "A Night in Utopia," a one night camping trip just outside Fort Worth city limits. The trip was open to anyone who had ever signed up for YAL at one of our tabling events, and for $20, PHSYAL provided your food, drink, and tent!
Fort Worth is home to Backwoods, an outdoors equipment retail store. Backwoods offers guided expeditions to nearly every creek and cranny of the world. PHSYAL had a backwoods guide come out to teach an environmental survival seminar and lead a nature walk through the woods.
After our Nature Walk we gathered around a fire for dinner and our chapter president's presentation for the evening: "How the environment would thrive in Ron Paul's America."
Finally, We enjoyed smores under the stars and listened to guitar around the campfire.
Our success can be measured by the 27 attendees, and the 24 who came to our next meeting on Wednesday!
Special Thanks to Backwoods and everyone who helped make last weekend such a success.
As pro-Liberty circles revel in their victory after residents of Oregon and Washington DC voted by ballot initiative to decriminalize the recreational use of cannabis, two additional victories in Arizona--both won by initiative as well, are also worth mentioning.
In a recent interview with Tom Woods, the Tenth Amendment Center's Michael Boldin explains Prop 122 and Prop 303 in detail, and their significance to the modern state's rights movement in the context of other pro-Tenth Amendment initiatives which made their way to ballots on election day.
Proposition 122 affirms one tool in the kit of the state's rights movement, one that serves as the title of the Tom Woods book on the subject, nullification. Prop 122 alters the language in Arizona's state constitution to mirror the "Anti-Commandeering Doctrine," a series of precedents set by the US Supreme court (one among them as recent as 2012) which uphold a state's right to refuse cooperation with federal authorities to enforce federal mandates.
According to Judge Andrew Napolitano, a state's refusal to cooperate with federal agents can make federal laws "nearly impossible to enforce." For all practical purposes, this is tantamount to a state nullifying, or rejecting, federal law.
In his interview Michael Boldin explains how Prop 122 may work in action:
"Every time the feds do a raid...they always have assistance from state and local police, state and local investigators, and state and local resources. The sheriffs block the roads, the cops knock on the door. They carry all the water while the feds have one or two agents directing the show. If the states withdraw support, then the federal government does not have the manpower or the resources to do to you what they want to do to you."
Boldin envisions a broad range of issues on which the state of Arizona could invoke its new constitutional language to block federal overreach. In his article on the subject for the Tenth Amendment Center, Boldin suggests
State Senator Frank Niceley was the key speaker at the event. YAL members were not the only ones in attendance. The event drew a variety of people to hear Senator Niceley speak. Local farmers were also there to find out more about the legislation. Many in Tennessee are expecting that hemp farming will generate many jobs in Tennessee. The Hemp Industries Association sent a representative to attend the event.
When Governor Bill Haslam signed the bill into law, Tennessee immediately received national attention. As the Tenth Amendment Center noted, there was one word that made the legislation the strongest in the entire country. That one word is "shall." The bill reads, “The department shall issue licenses to persons who apply to the department for a license to grow industrial hemp.”
Many topics were discussed as the event went on. Senator Niceley told how far Tennessee has come in the past couple years. Federal Agents have been raiding businesses selling raw milk for the past couple years, especially in California. This won’t happen in Tennessee thanks to the work of Senator Niceley. Another topic discussed was Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s). Students had many questions and concerns about GMO’s at the event.
The event succeeded at educating students and members of the community. Young Americans for Liberty also received media coverage from WATE News in Knoxville along with the Daily Beacan, a campus newspaper.
Baylor University YAL's discussion unit on the War on Drugs culminated in an event last Wednesday focusing on mandatory minimum sentencing.
Our members constructed a prison cell and had Baylor students take pictures in it, holding profiles of people sentenced using mandatory minimums. The profiles, which were structured like booking cards, also gave an overview of why our club was there, what mandatory minimums are, and where students could find more information.
We set up our table and passed out End the Drug War swag, books, and pocket constitutions. This was a visually striking event that brought a lot of interested students over to our table to talk to YAL members about an issue that has not received much attention at Baylor.
A major component of a free society is that the law applies to everyone equally, regardless of class. That the law is applied equitably and to everyone be they rich or poor, man or woman, gay or straight. But too often we see that those with political connections are held to a different standard of law. This case with Biden's son is just one example. The episode reminded me of Penn Jillette's famous rant regarding the war on drugs and how it's applied differently to politicians than to the rest of the country (above link contains profanity).
One need only periodically read the news to find that police officers around the country routinely get away with theft, destruction of property, and even murder on a regular basis. And by "get away with," I mean that the protocol is usually that the officer in question first gets a paid vacation and then the police department conducts an investigation of itself only to find that no wrongdoing occurred.
A recent example that should not be forgotten is the brutal murder of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill man loved by his community who was tazed and beaten to death by police. Thomas' last words were of him calling out for his father to save him from his murderers. The police officers involved were fired, thankfully, but were acquitted on all charges earlier this year.