Nebraska Lawmakers Vote to End Death Penalty

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A view of the death chamber from the witness room at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility shows an electric chair and gurney August 29, 2001 in Lucasville, Ohio.
Photo: Mike Simons/Getty Images

Nebraska’s unicameral legislature just voted to abolish the death penalty — and they have enough votes in favor of the measure to overrule a veto from conservative Governor Pete Ricketts, as long as the support holds. Nebraska — which hasn’t executed a prisoner since 1997 — is the first conservative state to get rid of the death penalty since North Dakota did in 1973. Thirty-two states currently allow the death penalty; Maryland was the last state to ban it in 2013.

Nebraska’s Republican lawmakers had many conservative reasons for abolishing the death penalty — the appeals process can waste lots of taxpayer money, others said that being a pro-life politician means supporting life “from conception to natural death.” One Republican state senator argued, “If government can’t be trusted to manage our health care … then why should it be trusted to carry out the irrevocable sentence of death?” 

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled execution by electric chair unconstitutional in 2008, and the state, like many others, had difficulty finding lethal injection drugs. Ricketts recently called the lack of executions in the state “a management problem.”