Nebraska Legislature passes repeal of death penalty

By Catholic News Service
LINCOLN, Neb. (CNS) — The Nebraska Legislature May 20 passed a measure to repeal the death penalty, with enough votes to override Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts’ promised veto.

The unicameral body voted 32-15.

At a news conference a week earlier, Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha joined about 15 religious leaders in calling for an end to the death penalty.

A posting on the Nebraska Catholic conference’s website said 37 people have been executed in Nebraska since it became a state in 1867. Thirty-four took place before 1972, the year the U.S. Supreme Court put a moratorium on use of the death penalty.

After laws were rewritten to comply with the court?s parameters, Nebraska executed three men, the most recent in 1997.

Nebraska lawmakers voted in 1979 to prohibit capital punishment, but then-Gov. Charlie Thone vetoed the measure and the Legislature did not have enough votes to override it.

News reports have made much of the fact that Republican lawmakers were pushing to repeal the death penalty. Ricketts had five days to sign or veto the bill before it becomes law. It would apply retroactively, giving the 11 people on death row a sentence of life without parole.

Catholic teaching recognizes governments may use the death penalty if it is the only available means to protect society from a grave threat to human life, Archbishop Lucas said in the news conference May 13.

"Public safety can be assured through other means," he said. ?Justice requires punishment, but it does not require that those who have committed capital crimes be put to death."

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