Nebraska’s lawmakers have made it clear to Governor Pete Ricketts: The death penalty is abolished. In a 30-19 vote (30 was needed for the overturn), Ricketts’ veto of the legislature’s first vote to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment was overturned.
This is not the first time Nebraska has been in conflict over the same issue, reports National Public Radio:
Nebraska is the first Republican-controlled state in the U.S. to repeal the death penalty since North Dakota in 1973. The previous attempt in 1979 to repeal capital punishment failed when the measure was vetoed by then-Gov. Charles Thone.
From a report last week on NPR:
Opposition to the death penalty came from Republican lawmakers who are against it for fiscal or religious reasons, as well as Democrats and independents.
Nebraska has not executed a prisoner in nearly 20 years — something Ricketts, a Tea Party Republican who strongly supports capital punishment, wants to change. He said this week that Nebraska had bought new lethal injections to resume the practice. In a column Tuesday on his website, he called Nebraska’s failure to execute anyone since 1997 a “management problem.”
A press release from Ricketts’ office includes the following:
“Today, I am vetoing LB268 which would repeal the death penalty in Nebraska,” said Governor Pete Ricketts. “Repealing the death penalty sends the wrong message to Nebraskans who overwhelming support capital punishment and look to government to strengthen public safety, not weaken it. Under this bill, there is no guarantee that convicted murderers will stay behind bars for life or not harm other innocent victims.”
“The Legislature’s decision will test whether our state has the prosecutorial tools to manage the ‘worst of the worst’ cases. Their decision will determine whether the families of the victims of ten men on Nebraska’s death row will ever receive the justice meted out by a very deliberate and cautious judicial process in each of their cases. Their decision tests the true meaning of representative government. For these reasons, I urge Nebraskans to contact their senator, and ask them to sustain my veto.”
The entire veto message is here.
The New York Times interviewed Nebraskans on both sides of the debate – for the death penalty:
Some Nebraskans said in interviews this week that they agreed with the governor. In downtown Ceresco, Neb., about 18 miles north of Lincoln, Wayne Ambrosias, owner of the Sweet Pea Market, said he did not want his tax dollars used to pay for murderers to stay in prison for their entire lives. And he echoed the governor’s statement that the lawmakers who supported the death penalty repeal bill were out of touch with a widely conservative public.
“I don’t think the politicians are in line with the everyday people,” Mr. Ambrosias said on Wednesday just before the vote. “I think it’s more of a political move. I don’t think the people are telling them that’s what they want.”
– and against:
“A lot of times murder is a crime of passion,” says Don Johnson, a retired commercial fisherman from Alaska now living in Ceresco. “I don’t think they think they think about the death penalty when they kill somebody or somebody gets killed. I don’t think it’s a preventative measure at all.”
Mr. Johnson, who considers himself an evangelical Protestant, said he sees the issue less as a religious belief than a strictly personal one. Other members of his church are in favor of the death penalty, he says, though he admits he cannot quite reconcile the punishment with Christianity.
“If you really follow Jesus’s teachings,” he said, “thou shall not kill, you know.”
Catholic bishops in Nebraska issued a statement in response to Ricketts’ (now-failed) veto: “We remain convinced that the death penalty does not deter crime, nor does it make Nebraska safer or promote the common good in our state.” The statement is published in full on WOWT NBC’s site.
Posted by Cara Ellen Modisett