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Nebraska Supreme Court rules electric chair executions illegal

[JURIST] The Nebraska Supreme Court [official website] Friday ruled [PDF text] that execution by electric chair is "cruel and unusual" punishment and therefore prohibited by the Nebraska constitution [text]. In State v. Mata, an appeal by convicted murderer Raymond Mata Jr. against his 2000 death sentence, the court found that since unconsciousness and death are not instantaneous, many condemned prisoners will consciously suffer when electrocuted. It upheld Mata's death sentence, but stayed his execution. The court's majority wrote that the ruling was based solely on state law, making the decision unlikely to be reviewed by the US Supreme Court.

Last May, Nebraska's high court stayed the execution [JURIST report] of Carey Dean Moore [Amnesty profile] to consider whether death by electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment. The court issued the stay after Nebraska Sen. Ernie Chambers [official profile] requested that the death penalty process be reviewed before anyone else is put to death. Nebraska is the only state to solely rely on the electric chair for capital punishment. AP has more. SCOTUSblog has additional coverage.

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