Me: Hey. I have a few questions about all this. I find this whole thing kind of fascinating and am amazed by how passionate people are about it on both sides of the issue. I am curious as to why you guys specifically are so invested in it — enough to set up a tent and ask people to sign [the petition] and things like that.
Him: Yeah, yeah, I know. There’s Jenkins for instance. [A man who is on death row in Nebraska.] And I think about it, and you know, I think ‘what if that was one of my kids or my family?’ You know? That’s the thing right there. It doesn’t have to be for all of them, but the worst criminals, I believe yes. You know? Because they’re sitting pretty in there. And then they talk about how the injections are expensive and everything. Well, isn’t it an expense to keep them in there for thirty years, or whatever time they have?
Me: Yeah. I think that’s the practical thing, and I think a lot of the Republicans, I was surprised by this, have fallen down on this issue and are against [the death penalty.] It’s the practical side of things. It’s actually a cost benefit. It’s actually more expensive to have [the death penalty] because of all the court appearances and things related to that. Some of these things…
Him: I know. They’re trying to dispersuade you to not, you know…
Me: I know, but do you believe that “life means life”?
[NB: This a phrase used by anti-death penalty advocates. At this point I was holding a flyer that was given to my wife when she left the DMV by a person representing Nebraskans for Public Safety which had bulleted out a number of strong arguments against the death penalty.)
It was also around this time that I realized that I’m not a good interviewer, and I asked too many questions in a row and brought up too many details in a row and should have been more patient. But this is literally the first time I have ever tried anything like this before, so I know how to improve for the next time I try something like this…]
Me: And the victim’s family is dragged into the appeal process over and over again. And what that looks like. Or how [supporting the death penalty] looks like compared to something like the Charleston situation where the families boldly came out and said, ‘I forgive you,’ you know?
Him: I don’t know. I’m kind of both ways. But then again, for the worst criminals, like I said, if it happened to one of my family members I’d probably just shoot them myself, you know? If a kid was molested and killed and everything, what would you do, I mean? You would think about it.
Him: That’s what I’m talking about. So that’s what I, I’m for that. For the worst criminals, you know? So basically, that is what this [petition] is for, I think, because they don’t do it for everybody. It’s the worst criminals. I mean, Jenkins. Look at that dude. So…it’s up to you. All it is, is to get it on the ballot to vote and that’s about all it is. It starts next year, in November or something like that. Get all these signatures on the ballot and we get to vote on it, so…that’s entirely up to you as to what you want to do.
Me: I’ve been curious about this whole thing myself. I moved here from Chicago a few months ago and I’m still getting used to the whole Nebraska political environment. I’m trying to understand better what it is like here.
Him: Oh, ok. So you’re not registered here?
Me: I just went to the DMV a couple days ago and registered to vote.
Him: Ok, it’s up to you.
Me: How did you get involved in this level of it?
Him: Well…I support it, but I’m getting paid too.
Me: Oh, ok.
Him: I was laid off and a temporary service brought me here. But I do support it.
Me: Is it a non-profit supporting this or what is…
Him: I’m not even sure. (A few chuckles.)
Me: Oh, that’s interesting.
Him: I don’t force anyone to do anything. It’s up to whoever wants to sign.
Me: Ok. Well, I appreciate it.