Legislature Overrides Governor's Veto, Abolishes Death Penalty

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A motion to override Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto of a bill to abolish the death penalty passed Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 30-19.

The Legislature passed the bill abolishing the death penalty last week with a 32-15 majority. Governor Ricketts vetoed the bill Tuesday afternoon. 30 votes were needed to override the veto.

"My words cannot express how appalled I am that we have lost a critical tool to protect law enforcement and Nebraska families," said Governor Ricketts. He also accused the Legislature of losing touch with the citizens of Nebraska after the vote.

The Republican governor talked to individual senators to try to convince them to stand by his veto. But the lead sponsor, independent Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, said he was confident the bill would maintain enough support for the override.

Abolishing the death penalty now raises questions about what to do with the ten men currently on Nebraska's death row. An official from Nebraska's Department of Corrections told WOWT 6 News that the Department will seek guidance as to whether the inmates' death sentences will automatically convert to life in prison, and whether or not they'll remain separated from the general population.

Nebraska hasn't executed a prisoner since 1997 when the electric chair was used and has never executed a prisoner by lethal injection.