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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 25, 1976)
Wednesday, february 25, 1976
Legislature will consider new state criminal code
By Kim Shepherd
The decision to keep non-controversial items out of the
proposed criminal code revision just to avoid long debate
on the floor of the Legislature may boomerang.
Sen. John DeCarnp of Neligh said the Judiciary Com
mittee's avoidance of controversial issues will cause him to
fight the bill's passage.
DeCamp tried to keep the bill from passing out of com
mittee but failed. Lincoln Sen. Roland Luedtke said he
expects DeCamp to fight the bill when it reaches the
DeCamp said he felt the bill revising Nebraska's crimi
nal code, LB 62 3, should have dealt with the realities of
sex, alcohol, gambling and prostitution but does not.
"We still have archaic crap in LB623 telling us who,
what, when and where we can make love," DeCamp said.
DeCamp recommends delay
He recommends the bill be delayed another year to
avoid its passage during an election year. Senators are
afraid of deleting the code's out-dated language because
they are scared they won't be re-elected if they do,
"We could work on this bill for 10 years and it would
still be archaic and obsolete," Luedtke said.
Victimless crimes could have been dealt with in LB623,
according to John Evans, lawyer for the judiciary commit
tee, but they were not because the bill was intended to be
Cohabitation and alcoholism are considered by some as
examples of victimless crimes.
: "I don't know that they'll (victimless crimes) ever be
dealt with," Evans said. "Alcoholism may be dealt with
soon because it has been recognized as an illness," he said.
Social gambling still illegal
There was an attempt to legalize social gambling in
LB623, but the committee decided a constitutional
amendment would be needed to do it, Evans said. The
committee did not want to risk an unconstitutional ruling
on the bill just by including legalization of social gam
bling, he added.
Laws dealing with rape and drug use have been rewrit
ten and adopted since 1969 when work on the revision of
the code began, therefore they reflect current attitudes,
In 1969 the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforce
ment and Criminal Justice used federal funds to begin an
extensive revision of Chapter 28 (which is the present
criminal code), of the Nebraska state statutes.
For two years an advisory group to the Judiciary Com
mittee held a series of meetings to discuss revision of the
criminal code. The revised code, LB8, was drafted in 1971
and presented to the Legislature during its 1972 session.
Lawyers, judges' opinions sought
LB8 revised Chapter 28 of the state statutes. No public
hearings were held during the committee's work in the
early seventies. They relied instead on the opinions of law
yers, prosecutors, public defenders, judges and law en
forcement officials, said Mike Johnson, a member of the
DeCamp, a Judiciary Committee member, said he did
not agree with the content of LB8 so he introduced his
own bill, LB329. His .bill was a take-off of the Hawaiian
Criminal Code, which decriminalizes victimless crimes.
The Legislature decided not to act on either bill and
sent them back to committee.
Public reaction to the bills was sought in 1972 and
staff members held public hearings across the state, said
Steve Schneiderwind, a research assistant for the Judiciary
Response to the hearings was good and several arnend
nents to the bill were suggested, Schneiderwind said.
Modem code needed
Streamlining and modernizing the criminal code is the
main purpose of LB623, Evans said.
"It was old, everything was sloppy," he said. "As more
laws were passed they were just added on (to the code)."
Besides taking out obsolete language, Evans said, he
thought the major accomplishment of LB623 was the
classification of crimes. The penalties are lumped together
under certain classes, but the seriouness of the crimes have
not been altered, he said.
Both Evans and Schneiderwind agree that the lumping
of penalties gives more leeway to the judges.
Evans said he foresees possible problems with leaving
so much up to the judge.
"People will say with so much left up to the judge's
discretion, the penalties may differ with the same crime
from Scottsbluff to Lincoln," Evans said.
Penalties easier to understand
Schneiderwind said he thought the classification may
make the penalties easier to understand.
"It may clear up some of the crime area," he said.
"The criminal will know what (penalty) he's going to
get," he added.
LB623 separates penalties into felony and misdemean
or categories, each of which includes five sub-classes.
For example, included under class III felony are man
slaughter, sexual assault, dispensing of hard drugs and
criminal syndicalism (pyramid sales).
Class III misdemeanors include administering medicine
while intoxicated, uttering, violation of embalming fluid
regulations, failure to report child abuse and mutilation
of a flag.
City takes care of funny laws
Evans said most of the "funny" laws like spitting on
sidewalks are in city ordinances, so the committee did not
have to include these in the criminal code. However, some
ctatA taufi lilm tinrA thiVwrv now are nut-dated and have
been eliminated in LB623, he added.
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said. For example, shooting a neighbor's dog used to be
considered cruelty to animals, he said, but under the pro
posed revisions it would be called destruction of property.
"It's the same penalty for a different offense," Evans
LB623, along with companion bills LB706 and LB707,
were advanced to the floor on Feb. 23. Sen. Luedtke said
the committee would term these their prefered bills. Pre
fered bills do not wait in line and are considered first.
LB706 and LB707 propose revisions of criminal laws
that are not included in Chapter 28 of the Nebraska state
By Anita Stork
When Nebraska lawmakers voted on a proposed re
vision of the Nebraska Criminal Code, they also will be
saying either aye or nay to a mandatory death penalty.
Eliminating the "capriciousness in imposing the death
penalty" is the intent of Neligh Sen. John DeCamp's
amendment to LB702, which makes the death penalty
mandatory for certain crimes.
LB702 is a companion bill to LB623, which revises the
criminal code and mandates the death penalty for those
crimes outlined in LB702.
'You will never come up with a
system that Is completely perfect."
Photo by 8tw ioerrwr '
NelUi Sen. John DeCamp
The Legislature's Judiciary Committee approved
LB702 as amended and sent it to the Unicameral floor for
debate on Feb. 23. ,
In response to DeCamp's amendment, Chambers intro
duced six amendments which offer "the governor, state .
senators and chimpanzees the opportunity to pull the
switch executing capital offenders.
Chambers said anyone instrumental in enacting the
death penalty should help execute it. He said he knows
the legislature will never approve his amendments.
DeCamp said Chambers was presenting a non-philosophy.
"When Chambers talks about monkeys and executing
criminals in Memorial Stadium, ho, is merely avoiding the
real issue," DeCamp said,
Crimes calling for death penalty
DeCamp's amendment states that every person found
guilty of first degree murder will be executed if any one
or more of the following special circumstances exist:
-murder with conspiracy . " .
-murder of a policeman engaged in the performance of
his duty in cases where the defendant knew or reasonably ,
should have known that the victim was a policeman on
-deliberate and premeuuiUd murder cf s materia!
witness to a crime to prevent "his testimony in any
-murder committed during the commission or
attempted commission of a robbery, rape or incest.
-the defendant has been convicted previously of more
than one offense of first or second degree murder.
-kidnapping, with or without murder
Every person otherwise found guilty of first degree
murder would receive life imprisonment. Those convicted
of second degree murder would receive a penalty ranging
from five years imprisonment to life imprisonment. The
death penalty could not be imposed on anyone younger
Taking lives improper
Chambers, in opposing the death penalty, said, it "is
totally improper for the sUte to take human lives."
"Capital punishment is illegal for both legal and con
stitutional reasons," Chambers added. ""TiiO Nebraska
Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitu
tional in 1972." , ,
"We should have a realistic death penalty, as this bill
provides for, or else no death penalty at all," DeCamp
sakl. t , . .. . , ,
A mandatory death penalty would be a deterrent to
crime, DeCamp said, because "from my personal exper
ience In Vietnam we were more afraid of being killed than
captured." ' '
DeCamp said his amendment insured that the same k
punishment would be given to "the richest, most affluent
man and the poorest, uneducated man.'
The death penalty is never fairly administered,
"The poor, the minority peoples and the oppressed are
the primary victims, while the rich and powerful
escape punishment," Chambers said.
Favored can escape penalty
Even with mandatory capital punishment, there are
"too many places the favored can get off," according to
Continued on p. 8
"The poor, the minority peoples
and the oppressed are the primary
victims, while the rich and powerful
' Photo by Stava Botmer
.Omaha Sen. Ernie Chamber
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