Laurel murder suspect asks judge to quash death penalty

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 6:01 PM CST
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LAUREL, Neb. (KTIV) - Northeast Nebraska murder suspect Jason Jones wants a judge to take the death penalty off the table in his case.

Jones filed his first substantive motion earlier this month, asking a judge to find that Nebraska’s death penalty system is unconstitutional.

The argument boils down to three main ideas: That only a jury should be able to impose the sentence, that prosecutors arbitrarily decide who faces the penalty, and that society has moved past putting people to death.

Jones’ lawyer argues Nebraska’s law, which requires a three-judge panel to impose the death sentence, violates the constitution. Essentially, the defense says there’s another procedural layer after the jury decides the case, taking the decision out of their hands.

They also argue there’s no standard for who faces the death penalty, that different local prosecutors may make different decisions, even in cases with similar facts.

Finally, the defense says only seven or eight states actively execute people, with Nebraska only putting about five people to death since the 1970s. They’re asking the judge to “quash” the death penalty allegations.

Even if their motion is granted, Jones would still face life in prison if convicted.

Nebraska’s death penalty

Nebraska’s system for capital murders includes a three-judge panel. In other states, a jury would ultimately decide if someone should be put to death.

According to the Nebraska legislature’s website, the legislature wrote the law so that a jury may find if there are aggravating factors. If the jury makes such a finding, a panel of judges will then weigh the evidence and decide if an execution should be carried out.