On May 20, the Nebraska legislature voted to abolish the death penalty with bipartisan support -- a challenge to the Republican governor’s wishes to continue with the process.
In a vote of 32-15, the unicamel Legislature voted to bar capital punishment from the state, becoming the first conservative state to do so since North Dakota in 1973, The New York Times reports. Conservatives in the state reportedly bolstered the bill because they oppose the death penalty for religious reasons, see it as a waste of taxpayer money, and question the government's ability to manage it.
Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts has pledged to veto the legislation, and called the passage of the bill a “dark day for public safety.” He also criticized state lawmakers who voted in favor of the legislation, saying they were “completely out of touch with the overwhelming number of people I talk to.”
Right before the vote, Ricketts advocated for legislators to vote down the bill, claiming that banning capital punishment would “give our state’s most heinous criminals more lenient sentences.”
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If the Governor does choose to veto the bill, a vote in the Legislature could override it. Only thirty votes would be needed to defeat the Governor’s veto.
State Sen. Ernie Chambers, an Independent, has attempted to end the death penalty in his state for decades.
“Nebraska has a chance to step into history -- the right side of history -- to take a step that will be beneficial toward the advancement of a civilized society,” Chambers said.
A prisoner hasn't been executed in Nebraska since 1997, the Associated Press reported. In that case, the electric chair was used, but the state has listed lethal injections as the proper form to use for such cases today.
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The last state to abolish the death penalty was Maryland in 2013. Since then, three other states -- New Mexico, Illinois and Connecticut -- have voted in the affirmative on the same measures.
One Republican state senator used the Boston marathon bombing as a reason to keep the death penalty in place.
“In America we recognize with our justice system that there are appropriate punishments and sentences and consequences for appropriate crimes,” Republican Sen. Beau McCoy said.
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