The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, January 29, 1999, Page 2, Image 2

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Inmate’s life l appeal
Gov. Mel Carnahan honored a per
sonal request for mercy from Pope
John Paul II and spared a triple mur
derer from the death chamber
Thursday, a day after the pontiff
strongly condemned capital punish
ment in a visit to St. Louis.
Carnahan, a Baptist, commuted
Darrell Mease’s death sentence to life
without parole. Mease, 52, was con
victed of killing a drug-dealing part
ner and the man’s wife and grandson
in southwest Missouri in 1988.
Mease was supposed to be execut
ed Feb. 10. Although it originally had
been scheduled for the week of the
pope’s visit, the execution was post
poned with no explanation.
Carnahan, a popular Democrat
planning a run for the Senate next
year, said the pope did not address
specifics of Mease’s case. The gover
nor also said he does not plan to look
differently at other death penalty
“I continue to support capital
punishment, but after careful consid
eration of his direct and personal
appeal and because of a deep and
abiding respect for the pontiff and all
he represents, I decided last night to
grant his request,” Carnahan said
Thursday. Laura Higgins Tyler, an
attorney for Mease, said the inmate
was “awestruck.”
“Darrell has remained very stead
fast to his faith in that he would
receive relief from God,” she said.
“I’d say this sure looks like a miracle
to me.”
During a morning Mass on
Wednesday at the Trans World Dome
in St. Louis, the pope made his most
explicit anti-death penalty comments
ever in the United States.
“I renew the appeal I made most
recently at Christmas for a consensus
to end the death penalty, which is
both cruel and unnecessary,” the pope
said in his 30-minute homily.
On Wednesday afternoon, the
Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal
Angelo Sodano, met with Carnahan
and relayed the pope’s plea for
Mease. Later after a prayer service at
a St. Louis church, the pope came
Darrell has remained very steadfast to his
faith in that he would receive relief from God.
Id say this sure looks like a miracle to me.”
Laura Higgins Tyler
attorney for Darrell Mease
down off the altar and personally
asked the governor to “extend mercy”
to Mease, Carnahan said. Carnahan’s
decision could hurt him in his chal
lenge of Republican Sen. John
Ashcroft, because most Missouri vot
ers favor capital punishment, political
analysts said.
“God help him if there are any
grieving relatives because he will
need the pope to come back to cam
paign for him,” said University of
Virginia political scientist Larry
FCC takes step toward
opening airwaves to all
jay wannabes, it’s a ticket to the air
The government took the first step
Thursday toward creating a low
power, low-cost radio service that
would help community groups,
churches, students and ordinary peo
ple get on the air.
The Federal Communications
Commission, in a 4-1 vote, offered
proposals to create thousands of new,
licensed low-tech FM radio stations. It
would reverse a roughly 20-year old
ban against such licenses.
The proposals “could create a
whole new class of voices using the
airwaves... opportunities for churches
and community groups... so many of
whom feel that they are being frozen
out of opportunities to become broad
casters,” FCC Chairman Bill Kennard
The FCC’s action also responds to
consolidation in the radio industry,
which has made it increasingly diffi
cult for minorities and community
groups to make their voices heard
“This permits people who have
felt abandoned by commercial broad
casting to use an inexpensive medium
to create an audio soap box for discus
sion and debate,” said Andrew
Schwartzman, president of the Media
Access Project, which supports the
new service.
Bills would limit convicts'
post-sentence proceedings
APPEALS from page 1
Chambers said, and the courts did not
sanction Stenberg.
“Why should an inmate, who is a
nonlawyer, be held to a higher stan
dard than the top lawyer in the state?”
Chambers asked during Stenberg’s
LB 185 testimony.
Stenberg said LB 185 is similar to
a federal law enacted in 1996. Civil
rights actions filed in federal courts
by Nebraska inmates decreased from
323 to 109 between 1995 and 1997.
But the number they filed in state
court increased from 219 to 346, he
“I think we need to distinguish an
inmate situation from those of citi
zens who have not been convicted of
a crime,” he said.
Chambers said courts already
have the power to control prisoners’
access to courts.
LB 185’s proponents say it would
reduce the number of frivolous law
suits prisoners file. If passed, it
■ Require that inmates pay filing
■ Prevent an inmate from filing a
civil action if he or she has filed three
or more previous suits that were dis
missed as frivolous, malicious or fail
ing to state a claim for which relief
could be granted. After three cases,
the prisoner would have to prove
imminent danger of serious physical
■ Authorize using inmate funds
for court costs; legal fees; medical,
dental or other correctional service
costs; and costs of drug testing that
results in disciplinary action against
the inmate.
Omaha Sen. Kermit Brashear
questioned the so-called “three
strikes” provision.
Brashear said the bill makes no
distinction between filing three frivo
lous suits in three years or three in 30
“Doesn’t it cry out for a time
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Senate downs secrecy proposal
Republican-controlled Senate
brushed aside a Democratic proposal
Thursday to keep videotaped ques
tioning of Monica Lewinsky and
other witnesses secret in President
Clinton’s impeachment trial, and
moved approval of a plan that could
allow public airing of the material.
The vote to reject the Democratic
proposal was 54-44 and adhered
strictly to party lines as daylong
efforts to forge a bipartisan compro
mise faltered.
The Republicans then moved to
set their rules, permitting videotap
ing of the questioning and leaving
open the possibility that it would be
aired publicly.
The voting came after hours of
sparring between Republicans and
Democrats over the way to conduct
the final stages of the impeachment
Both sides envisioned a final
vote by Feb. 12, but they differed
markedly on what would happen
until then.
Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., the
majority leader, put the rival plans to
votes with a minimum of explana
tion, which prompted one of his col
leagues to ask about details.
But Chief Justice William
Rehnquist declined to answer Sen.
Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
“The parliamentarian tells me it
is never the function of the chair to
interpret a resolution,” Rehnquist
Republicans wanted to leave
room for a vote on fact finding that
would state formally that Clinton
had committed offenses, even if he
wasn’t to be removed from office.
The Democratic scenario would
have prevented Republicans from
even submitting such a document for
a vote.
On the issue of witness question
ing, Democrats wanted to exclude
any videotaped material from the
trial record - meaning that images of
Lewinsky would not be available for
public showing.
The Republicans countered with
a proposal to allow portions of the
depositions to be made public
“whether transcribed or on video
tape.” At the White House,
spokesman Joe Lockhart called for a
swift end to the trial and said that in
the Senate, “the Republican majority
has to answer to the country of why
they want to continue to extend this
The developments came one day
after Republicans used their majority
muscle to reject a call for immediate
dismissal of the charges against
Clinton, and to order subpoenas for
Lewinsky, presidential friend Vernon
Jordan and White House aide Sidney
But the 44 votes posted by
Clinton’s defenders on each of the
two roll calls Wednesday may well
have been more significant, showing
the president had more than enough
support to gain eventual acquittal on
the two articles of impeachment.
Bill offers tax break for adopters
By Brian Carlson
Staff writer
By providing a tax credit for fam
ilies who adopt children, the state
would herald adoption as a better
choice than abortion, Gov. Mike
Johanns said Thursday.
Johanns told the Legislature’s
Revenue Committee that the tax cred
its contained in LB482 not only
would encourage more families to
adopt, but would prevent some abor
tions by encouraging public support
for adoption.
“This bill sends an encouraging
message of support for strong fami
lies, which are the backbone of our
state,” he said. “We should try to
encourage adoption as a very sound,
viable alternative.”
The bill, sponsored by Sen.
Gerald Matzke of Sidney, would pro
vide families a $ 1,000 annual income
tax credit for each child they adopted
under 6 years of age. Families would
receive die credit each year until the
child turned 6.
The tax credit would apply
regardless of the circumstances of the
adoption. For example, the credit
would apply whether the child was
related or unrelated to the adoptive
A fiscal impact statement for the
bill estimates it would cost $162,000
to $286,000 annually. Johanns said
the bill’s encouragement of adoption
justified the cost.
“Some may assert this is too gen
erous,” he said. “But I believe it is
important to support families who
have chosen to adopt a child.”
Besides Johanns and Matzke, six
people testified in support of the bill.
Although no one testified in opposi
tion, committee Chairman Sen. Bob
Wickersham of Harrison expressed
With about 2 million Americans
waiting to adopt a child, the state may
not need to provide further incentives
for adoption, he said. The Legislature
is under pressure to hold down spend
ing, he said, and the tax credits may
not be a worthwhile expense.
“We have 2 million people wait
ing to adopt,” he said. “Do we need
Wickersham also worried the tax
credit could be claimed in cases for
which it wasn’t intended.
For example, families who hired a
surrogate mother to carry their child
might adopt their child and receive
the credit. Also, the tax credit could
encourage people to purchase chil
dren from foreign countries - a prob
lem that has grown more common,
Wickersham said.
Supporters of LB482 countered
that the bill would provide important
moral support, both for the adopting
family and for the mother who makes
the difficult decision to put her child
up for adoption.
Sandy Danek, a mother of two
adopted children and representative
of Lincoln Right to Life, said tax
credits would help offset the costs of
adoption and encourage families who
make an important contribution to
society by adopting.
“It means more of an emotional
support,” she said. “Support from the
state is important to us as adoptive
families. This bill says, ‘We want to
encourage this. We know it comes
with challenges. Here’s a way to make
it easier.’”
Wickersham asked Danek how
tax credits for adopting families
would encourage mothers to give
their children up for adoption rather
than abort.
If mothers knew their child would
be well cared for by another family,
and if society more strongly demon
strated its support for adoption, more
mothers would choose adoption over
abortion, Danek said.
“You may ask how this encour
ages adoption in crisis pregnancies,”
she said. “The connection is that the
influences and attitudes of others sur
rounding (mothers in crisis pregnan
cies) makes such a huge difference in
their decisions.”
Don Parsons, executive director
of Family First, said people on oppo
site sides of the abortion debate could
and should agree to encourage adop
tion as a satisfactory alternative.
“We believe that promotion of
adoption by the state or organizations
like ours is the nearest thing to middle
ground in a debate that has split the
nation,” he said.
Parsons added that the bill could
cut state costs for foster care by plac
ing more foster children in families.
Sens. Stan Schellpeper of Stanton
and David Landis of Lincoln noted
that demand for adopting young chil
dren is high, but it declines for older
children. They asked Johanns and
Matzke why the tax credit should only
apply for children under 6.
Both Johanns and Matzke said
they were willing to discuss extend
ing the credit to families who adopt
older children.
The state would do well to encour
age adoption of older children,
Matzke said, but the main purpose of
the bill is to identify adoption as the
“sole reasonable option in the event of
an unplanned or unwanted pregnan
“This is a bold, thoughtful initia
tive to ensure it is financially feasible
for any Nebraskan to adopt a child.”