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Nebraska’s Death Penalty Vote Paves The Way For A Life And Death Veto SMACKDOWN

Nebraska’s majority-Republican state legislature voted to abolish the death penalty Wednesday, but it’s not over yet.

Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts threatened to veto the bill, and whether the legislature will have the votes to override that veto is up in the air. The legislature would need 30 votes to override a veto. The bill passed 32-15, so if the votes hold, Nebraska’s harshest penalty will be replaced with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Nebraska State Sen. Colby Coash told The Daily Caller News Foundation the governor will try to get three senators to change their vote, but he is unlikely to succeed.

“At least 30 people will think if it’s good enough for final reading it’s good enough even if the governor disagrees with them,” Coash, who helped lead the repeal effort, told TheDCNF. “On this issue I think minds were pretty much made up.”

Coash told TheDCNF that while the bill does include language applying to inmates already on death row, whether the abolishment would retroactively apply would have to be decided by the judge in each individual case.

The governor must sign or veto the bill within five days of receiving it. If he does not veto, it becomes law. If he does veto, the legislature has five days to override the veto.

“No one has traveled the state more than I have in the past 18 months, and everywhere I go there is overwhelming support for keeping the death penalty in Nebraska,” Ricketts said in a statement Wednesday.

Senators debated LB268 Wednesday before the vote. The arguments for abolishing included instances of forensic evidence mishaps, bad lawyers, overturned convictions and how the threat of death scares innocent defendants to take plea bargains.

“Remember what we’d be asking someone to do on our behalf, participate in the killing of another human being,” Coash said from the floor. “How do we say to a worker?”

Many legislators also criticized the lengthy appeals process that has rendered Nebraska’s death penalty largely impotent. The state has 11 inmates on death row but hasn’t executed anyone since 1997.

“Nebraska has not had an execution in 19 years,” Stacy Anderson, executive director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, told TheDCNF. “We have wrongly convicted people of murder. Twenty-nine family members of murder victims in this state have called for this repeal because the process is harmful to them.”

Maryland was the most recent state to abolish the death penalty, which occurred in 2013. Capital punishment is legal in 32 states, including Nebraska. The last conservative state to abolish the death penalty was North Dakota in 1973.

This vote from a red state like Nebraska, which has a legislature with 36 of 49 seats Republican and whose residents voted for Mitt Romney by a wide margin, may signal that the death penalty is falling out of favor with conservatives.

“What is happening in Nebraska is unsurprising because a growing number of conservatives are increasingly expressing their concerns about the irrevocably broken death penalty system,” Marc Hyden, national coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty told TheDCNF. “Everywhere I go conservatives are interested in this dialog. We realize the death penalty costs much more than the alternative and that the system is error-prone.  We believe in limited government, fiscal responsibility, and we value life.  It is time for capital punishment to be ended.”

The governor fired off a series of tweets Wednesday morning warning Nebraska’s unicameral legislature.

(1/3) This morning’s debate on the death penalty is significant. No one has traveled the state more than I have.

— Gov. Pete Ricketts (@GovRicketts) May 20, 2015

(2/3) Everywhere there is overwhelming support for keeping the death penalty. Ahead of this morning’s vote, I am reminding senators

— Gov. Pete Ricketts (@GovRicketts) May 20, 2015

(3/3) a vote for cloture on LB268 is a vote to repeal the death penalty + to give our state’s most heinous criminals more lenient sentences.

— Gov. Pete Ricketts (@GovRicketts) May 20, 2015

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