Lincoln, Neb., May 21, 2015 / 16:11 pm
Nebraska's Catholic bishops on Wednesday praised the Nebraska legislature's veto-proof vote to end the death penalty, saying capital punishment "cannot be justified" in the state at present.
The bishops said their support for the bill was based on Catholic teaching and their prudential judgement that the death penalty is now unjustifiable. Their support "also flows from our prayerful reflection on the words of Jesus Christ himself: 'love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father'," they said.
Nebraska's unicameral legislature on May 20 voted 32-15 to pass LB 268. The legislation replaces the death penalty with life in prison without parole.
The state last executed a prisoner in 1997, and there are currently 11 men on death row in Nebraska, the Associated Press reports.
Legislators opposed to the death penalty voiced various objections including religious reasons, the cost to taxpayers of executions and legal appeals, and whether government can be trusted to administer the death penalty.
Gov. Pete Ricketts, who supports capital punishment, said he would veto the bill, though only 30 votes in the Nebraska Legislature are needed to override a governor's veto.
The Republican governor said the state has imposed the death penalty judiciously and charged that the legislature's vote is "completely out of touch with the overwhelming majority of Nebraskans that I talk to."
Prior to Nebraska, Connecticut was the last U.S. state to end the death penalty, in 2013.
In a March 17 statement, the Nebraska bishops voiced compassion for the victims of violent crime and their families, while adding that the dignity even of the guilty must be recognized.