On Wednesday, Nebraska marked a definitive change regarding death penalty, becoming the 19th U.S. state to abolish it.
The legislation was initially vetoed by Republican Governor Pete Ricketts, who staunchly believes in justice system based on death row for gruesome crimes. Independent Senator Ernie Chambers introduced a bill for repeal that saw an overwhelming support across party lines.
In order to repeal the Governor’s veto, state legislation provides the specification that a minimum of 30 out of 49 senators must vote in favor. And that is what happened on Wednesday at the Capitol.
The veto repeal bill passed with 30 votes in favor and 19 against, sending Governor’s Ricketts veto into a cone of shadow and pushing Nebraska as the first Republican state in the past 40 years to fully abolish the death penalty.
The nonpartisan, unicameral Legislature kept the efforts going against what seemed to be a never-ending battle. Governor Ricketts, families of victims of the criminals who still find themselves on death row, judges and other law enforcement personnel repeatedly joined their voices in sending one clear message.
That the death penalty was the last redutte in fighting crime and protection the citizens of Nebraska. As Governor Pete Ricketts stated:
“My words cannot express how appalled I am that we have lost a critical tool to protect law enforcement and Nebraska families. While the Legislature has lost touch with the citizens of Nebraska, I will continue to stand with Nebraskans and law enforcement on this important issue.”
The death penalty was enforced by the state of Nebraska fifteen year ago. At that time, an inmate died on the electric chair.
This is one of the reasons that prompted the Legislature to argue that the death penalty is both expensive as it is inefficient. Party values were cited as well and religious arguments were brought to the fore.
With the celebration that came about in the aftermath of the successful repeal bill, Senator Beau McCoy also brought news of his own. He started the Nebraskans for Justice group.
Its purpose is to help citizens of the state initiate a ballot on the matter of capital punishment if they feel that the Legislature was not speaking in their names at the time of their decision.
Presently, Nebraska still counts ten inmates who are facing the death penalty. What exactly is going to happen to them is still unknown. Nebraska switched recently from the electric chair to the lethal injection protocol, albeit the new method has never been used.
For the moment, the Legislature is still enjoying the laurels of having brought Nebraska in the ranks of states that banned capital punishment.
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