Colorado activists buoyed by Nebraska lawmakers’ vote to abolish death-penalty

The Nebraska Statehouse towers in front of a cloudy sky.
Colorado activists celebrate Nebraska's attempted repeal of the death penalty.

Colorado anti-death penalty activists are rejoicing that Nebraska lawmakers voted to repeal that state’s death penalty and replace it with life without parole.

Even though Gov. Pete Ricketts pledges to veto the bill, the fact that lawmakers in such a conservative state work toward ending the death penalty gives local anti-capital punishment organizers hope. They see Nebraska’s bill as part of a national trend away from execution.

“Having a red state such as Nebraska lead the way in abolition represents how nonpartisan death penalty repeal really is,” reads a press release from Colorado’s Better Priorities Initiative.

“The death penalty is an expensive and broken system that does not make us any safer,” it continues. “We congratulate Nebraska on taking this step towards repeal and look forward to seeing it signed into law.”

Nebraska’s governor argues the lawmakers were voting against the will of Nebraskans. “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 said to CNN.

Colorado and Nebraska are two of 32 states that use capital punishment — at least in theory, if not often in practice. Colorado has three people on death row and has executed 101 people in the state’s history, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The last execution, the killing of Gary Lee Davis, took place in 1997.

Photo credit: Jim Bowen, Creative Commons, Flickr


  1. An important to add is that the vote in Nebraska’s unicameral or one-house Legislature was 32-15, more than the 30 votes (3/5 majority of 49 Senators in all) required to override the expected veto from the Governor. So, if these votes hold, Nebraska wil soon become the 19th State to abolish the death penalty. It’s moving that many conservative Senators have been central to the Nebraska abolition movement, including one who, as a college student, joined in a public demonstration to celebrate an electrocution in 1994, but now has moved to what he sees as the right side of history.

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