...until he is dead

A history of Nebraska's death penalty

(Graphic: Scott Beachler)

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In 1878 Kearney County Sheriff lead convicted murderer Samuel Richards to the gallows built for the occasion in Minden.  As hundreds of spectators watched, a hangman placed a noose around his neck.  Richards became the first person in the state’s history to be legally executed.  

Whether by hanging or electrocution, Nebraska, since declaring statehood, has used capital punishment sparingly.  As the state prepares for its first execution by lethal injection,  NET News asks a simple question, "How did we get here?"  The result is the documentary “…until he is dead: A history of Nebraska’s death penalty.” 

The program reviews a century and a half of differing methods, changing law and shifting public opinion.  Fascinating stories, illustrated with rarely seen photographs, shed light on the legal and ethical choices made by public officials and the disturbing background of those who were executed.  Viewers will leave with fresh insights into the rationale for and opposition to the ultimate punishment given the worst of society’s offenders. 

Research by NET News producer Bill Kelly revealed a wealth of long-forgotten details about the history of the death penalty that both amaze and educate.  Kelly examined hundreds of old public documents, press accounts, and court records from across the state.  Interviews with experts in history and law provide context to the stories of horrific crimes and the public's demand for justice.

The result is a program that will become an essential part of the discussion of Nebraska's complicated relationship with capital punishment. 

"....until he is dead: A history of Nebraska's death penalty" premiered in February, 2013 on NET Television.

Additional Material

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