[JURIST] Nebraska on Wednesday became the first Republican-controlled state to repeal the death penalty [Bill 268, PDF] since 1973. Governor Pete Ricketts [official campaign website] vetoed the bill on Tuesday, but after a vote Wednesday afternoon, the state officially repealed capital punishment [press release]. A sentence of life without parole will replace the previous sentence of capital punishment. Although the last execution was in 1997, the 10 inmates currently on death row may still be executed as scheduled, as the law is prospective not retroactive. Ricketts claimed that his support of the death penalty was founded in public welfare, namely, keeping dangerous criminals off the streets. However, a life sentence without parole will have the same effect, as it entails the prisoner living out their remaining days while incarcerated.
Lethal injection [JURIST news archive] and execution methods have been at the forefront of the death penalty debate for the past few years. Last month the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments [JURIST report] on the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection procedure. Oklahoma became the face [JURIST report] of the legal injection drug debate last year after death row inmate Clayton Lockett died of an apparent heart attack shortly after doctors called off a failed attempt to execute him using a lethal injection drug called midazolam. Also in April the Delaware Senate voted to repeal [JURIST report] the death penalty, but the legislation includes an exemption for the 15 inmates currently on Delaware’s death row. In March Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill [JURIST report] to restore the firing squad as a method of execution, making Utah one of the few states with that option. Like in Oklahoma, if drugs used for lethal injections are unavailable, a firing squad would be allowed.