Nebraska legislature narrowly votes to repeal​ death penalty

Nebraska votes to abolish death penalty, becoming first majority Republican state to abolish capital punishment in more than four decades.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The legislature of the US state of Nebraska narrowly voted on Wednesday to repeal​ the death penalty, with legislators overriding the governor's veto of a bill repealing death penalty.

With the decision Nebraska became the first majority Republican state to abolish capital punishment in more than 40 years, as well as the 19th US state to do so.

The bill was carried by 30 votes to 19, a large enough majority to override the veto of Nebraska’s Republican governor, Peter Ricketts, and replace capital punishment with a term of life without parole.

Lawmakers in Nebraska previously voted to abolish capital punishment in the state on April 17 and May 20, but Governor Ricketts had vetoed the bill.

The governor said on Tuesday that repealing the death penalty “sends the wrong message” to the “overwhelming” number of Nebraskans who want to see it remain the law of the state.  

The 10 people still on Nebraska’s death row will have their sentences reduced to life in prison, though the state hasn’t executed an inmate since 1997.

"My words cannot express how appalled I am that we have lost a critical tool to protect law enforcement and Nebraska families," Ricketts said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Nebraska vote reflects a gradual nationwide trend against the death penalty in the United States.

Prosecutors have said they are more cautious about pursuing the death penalty due to the state having had difficulty in obtaining drugs used for lethal injections, as well as the risk of wrongful convictions and unfair implementation.

Some European pharmaceutical companies not wanting their products to be associated with executions have made it difficult for states to carry out lethal injections.

TRTWorld and agencies