Nebraska lawmakers vote to repeal death penalty

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(CNN) — The Nebraska legislature has passed a bill to repeal the state’s death penalty and replace it with life without parole.

The measure, which passed Wednesday on a 32-15 vote, faces a promised veto from Gov. Pete Ricketts.

“No one has traveled the state more than I have in the past 18 months, and everywhere I go there is overwhelming support for keeping the death penalty in Nebraska,” Ricketts, a Republican, said ahead of the vote.

“I am reminding senators that (this is) a vote to repeal the death penalty and to give our state’s most heinous criminals more lenient sentences. This isn’t rhetoric. This is reality.”

State Sen. Ernie Chambers, the bill’s sponsor and a member of the New Alliance Party, said he’s confident supporters can muster the 30 votes necessary to override a veto.

“Most of those people had voted at least three times for this bill, which indicates to me that they were casting a principled vote based on conviction,” Chambers told CNN affiliate KOLN. “So when the governor vetoes it, it will be just one more vote that has to be cast.”

Nebraska’s legislature is unique among the 50 states in two areas. It’s a unicameral body — one house — and nonpartisan. It has 49 members, typically called senators.

Nebraska is one of 32 states that impose the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, although executions have been rare.

Eleven people are on Nebraska’s death row.

In the state’s history, 37 people have been put to death, the most recent in 1997. There were no executions in Nebraska between 1959 and 1994.

CNN’s Sam Stringer contributed to this report.

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