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Judge rejects attempt to abolish the death penalty for murders in Laurel, Nebraska

HARTINGTON, Nebraska (KTIV) — Jason Jones, a man accused of killing four people in Laurel, Nebraska, wanted a judge to vacate the death penalty in his case. But on March 30, the judge rejected this demand.

Online court documents show that Jones’ attorney asked the judge in the case to declare Nebraska’s death penalty system unconstitutional. The argument boiled down to three main ideas: only juries should be allowed to pass sentence, that prosecutors arbitrarily decide who faces punishment, and that society has moved away from the death penalty.

Jones’ attorney argued that Nebraska’s law, which requires a panel of three judges to pass a death sentence, violated the constitution. Essentially, the defense is saying that there is another procedural layer after the jury decides the case, taking the decision out of their hands. They also argue that there is no standard for those facing the death penalty and that different local prosecutors may make different decisions even in cases with similar facts. Finally, the defense said that only seven or eight states were actively executing people, and Nebraska had only executed about five people since the 1970s.

The judge considered all of these points and ultimately ruled that the death penalty was still a possible sentence for Jones. The judge mentioned in his ruling that the Nebraska Supreme Court had already considered the above issues.

Jones is due in court on May 22 to face charges. He faces ten charges, four of which involve first-degree murder. These allegations are related to several shootings and arsons that took place on 4 August. That day, authorities found four victims in two different burnt houses in Laurel.

The victims were 53-year-old Michelle Ebeling, 86-year-old Jean Twyford, 85-year-old Janet Twyford and 55-year-old Dana Twyford.

Nebraska’s system for capital murders includes a panel of three judges. In other states, juries will ultimately decide whether someone should be executed.

According to the Nebraska legislature website, the legislature wrote the law so that juries can determine if there are aggravating circumstances. If the jury reaches that conclusion, a panel of judges will then weigh the evidence and decide whether or not the execution should be carried out.

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