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Nebraska Studies Electrocution Ruling.

According to a recent Associated Press report in the Lincoln Journal Star, Nebraska corrections Director Harold Clarke said prison officials could use one jolt of electricity to execute death row inmates, but that a judge's ruling that four jolts is unconstitutional could be disputed.

Judge Robert Hippe of Scotts Bluff County contends that state prison officials' practice of using four separate jolts of electricity to execute inmates causes undue suffering. He said state law calls for a current of electricity to be administered continuously until the inmate dies, which he sees as constitutional.

"There is nothing unconstitutional about the law itself," Hippe wrote. "Electrocutions according to the protocol established by law would not result in infliction of unnecessary pain, torture or a lingering death." But Clarke said he reads the statute as calling for electricity to he continued until the inmate is dead, not necessarily in an uninterrupted stream.

Clarke said prison officials use four jolts to avoid problems such as fires or severe burning of the inmate. He also said the state attorney general's office wants to read Hippe's opinion and discuss it with prison officials before deciding its next move.

Hippe's ruling could put executions on hold in Nebraska until the issue winds its way through the courts. Expert witnesses, including a physicist who has studied electricity's effects on the human body, said Nebraska's method of using several jolts of electricity gives the body time to recover and increases the odds the person will feel pain. Nebraska and Alabama are the only states in which the electric chair is the only means of execution.
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Author:Harry, Jennifer L.
Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U4NE
Date:Jul 1, 2000
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