From a news article, "Speakers Share Why They Oppose the Death Penalty":
Change the hearts and minds of everyday citizens about the death penalty and chances improve that Nebraska's legislators will eventually change their minds and vote to repeal the state's death penalty.
Jill Francke, state coordinator for Nebraskans Against the Death Penalty, said her organization is trying to talk to as many people as possible about the realities of the death penalty.
As part of that strategy, Francke accompanied two death penalty opponents, Miriam (Thimm) Kelle and Thomas Winslow, to Trinity United Methodist Church in Grand Island Thursday evening to tell people why they oppose the death penalty.
Francke said it is her theory that most people don't like to think at any length of time about the death penalty because the subject makes them uncomfortable. She said most people will say to themselves, "I support the death penalty," or "I'm against the death penalty," and then quickly get back to their everyday lives.
Francke said Kelle and Winslow have never had that option.
Kelle is the sister of James Thimm, who was brutally tortured and murdered by death row inmate Michael Ryan as part of the Rulo cult murders. Winslow is one of the "Beatrice 6," who spent 20 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
Kelle and Winslow each talked separately about their own experiences, then answered questions from a small group of people who had gathered at the church to hear their presentations.
Kelle said Ryan's conviction and time on death row have split the family. She said she is in the minority who do not want to see Ryan executed, even though there is no doubt that he committed what she considers to be the most heinous murder in Nebraska history.
Kelle said that for a long time, she kept that minority opinion to herself. But she said she never felt comfortable with Ryan's death sentence and, for her own sake, she needed to start talking about her feelings.
She said she prayed over her decision.
After her talk, Kelle told The Independent that one thing that finally tipped her toward making her opposition to the death penalty known is when she learned how much money has been spent on trying to put Ryan to death.
"It's $2.43 million and it's not over with yet," she said. Kelle said that is more than enough money to have imprisoned Ryan for life without parole.
As a nurse, Kelle said, she thinks about the good that the remainder of that $2.43 million could have done, whether it be in the areas of violence prevention programs or other programs that could have beneficial effects for the state's residents.
Kelle said she believes the ongoing appeals process to put Ryan to death has created an open wound for many family members. She said she believes some family members may think their grief will be relieved when Ryan is put to death.
However, she said no execution date has ever been set for Ryan, who still has appeals pending. Kelle said she did not believe family members' grief will necessarily end even if Ryan is executed. She noted that her brother, James, will still be dead.
Kelle said she believes family members could start working on their grief issues earlier if Ryan was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. Now, family members are waiting for some climactic event to happen with Ryan's execution. She said some may not live to see that happen.