Nebraska, once the picture of reliable Republican conservatism, is expected to repeal the death penalty this week, a move that is part of the growing debate over capital punishment and illustrates how the division between left and right is blurring on some political issues.
State lawmakers last week voted 32-15 to end capital punishment, but Gov. Pete Ricketts signed the veto message on Tuesday.
“This sends the wrong message,” the governor said at a televised news conference, urging senators to vote to keep the death penalty. Repealing capital punishment “sends a message to criminals that Nebraska will be soft on crime.”
Despite the governor’s request, the legislature is expected to consider an override, according to Nebraska Sen. Ernie Chambers.
Nebraska’s lethal injection chamber at the State Penitentiary in Lincoln. (Nate Jenkins / Associated Press)
“We got 32 votes to end the death penalty and if they follow their conscience, we should have no trouble with an override,” Chambers told the Los Angeles Times. He said he will pick a time for the override vote, which will be called this week, but not on Tuesday.
Though the majority of people tell national pollsters that they still support the death penalty, the issue has comes under increasing examination in the wake of several executions where the inmate seemed to suffer. Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the thorny issues of lethal injections and the proper dosage of drugs that can be used to avoid the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Other criminal justice issues have drawn similar responses from the left and right.
For example, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Rand Paul, one of the leaders in the double-digit field of Republican candidates, have both called for reforms to end the mass incarceration of inmates, principally on drug charges.
Questions about the viability of the death penalty and the changing nature of conservative thought, are part of the reason that Nebraska is poised to become the only red state in recent years to ban executions, said Chambers, who eschews all labels and refers to himself as an independent.
Chambers, who represents parts of Omaha, said he has tried to repeal the death penalty 37 times. He would not have succeeded in getting the bill passed this year without conservative support.
via Why conservative Nebraska seems determined to repeal the death penalty.