Nebraska Gov. Uses Pen to Keep Death Penalty Alive

Pete Ricketts vetoes repeal bill
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2015 12:52 AM CDT
Nebraska Gov. Uses Pen to Keep Death Penalty Alive
Michael Ryan has died after three decades on Nebraska's death row for the 1985 cult killings of two people, including a 5-year-old boy.   (Nebraska Department of Correctional Services via AP)

Gov. Pete Ricketts has vetoed a bill to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska, saying it would send a message to criminals that the state is "soft on crime." State lawmakers voted 32-15 last week against capital punishment, the Omaha World-Herald reports. It will take 30 votes to override the veto, but one of the 32 has already changed his mind, and Ricketts is urging Nebraskans who want to keep the death penalty to call their senators, reports the New York Times. "We have 10 inmates on death row—we don't have hundreds," Ricketts says. "We use it judiciously and prudently, and therefore we need to retain it. I urge all the senators who are making this vote, please sustain my veto."

If the vote this afternoon to override the veto succeeds, Nebraska will be the first conservative-leaning state to ban capital punishment since North Dakota in 1973, the Times notes. That state hadn't executed anybody since 1905, while Nebraska's most recent execution was in 1997. On Sunday, the number of people on Nebraska's death row fell from 11 to 10 with the death of sadistic cult leader Michael Ryan. Ryan, one of the state's most notorious criminals, had been sentenced to die for the 1985 torture and murder of two people, including a 5-year-old boy. Lawmakers were told earlier this year that he had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, the AP reports. (More Nebraska stories.)

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