Nebraska legislature repeals death penalty, overriding governor's veto

(Reuters) - Nebraska on Wednesday became the 19th U.S. state to abolish capital punishment as legislators narrowly voted to override the Republican governor’s veto of a bill repealing the death penalty.

The state’s unicameral legislature voted 30-19, the exact number of votes needed to override Governor Pete Ricketts’ veto, to replace capital punishment with a term of life without parole.

Nebraska became the first majority Republican state to repeal the death penalty since North Dakota in 1973. Nebraska has not executed an inmate since 1997, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks capital punishment.

Ricketts, a death penalty supporter, vetoed the bill on Tuesday, calling capital punishment a deterrent. Nebraska recently purchased new drugs to be used in lethal injections.

Debate about executions has revived in recent years across the United States after a number of botched lethal injections.

Senators in the officially nonpartisan, but majority Republican unicameral legislature, had cited religious reservations, the difficulty the state has in obtaining drugs used for lethal injections, the risk of wrongful convictions, and unfair implementation in turning against executions.

“Everything we’ve seen and heard from studies in the past shows that at best the death penalty is applied arbitrarily,” Senator Matt Hansen said.