Nebraska becomes 19th US state to halt death penalty

WASHINGTON (AFP, REUTERS) - Nebraska lawmakers voted to overturn their governor's veto and abolish the death penalty on Wednesday, becoming the nineteenth US state to do so. It is the first majority Republican state in four decades to abolish the death penalty.

The bill was carried by 30 votes to 19, a large enough majority to override the objections of Nebraska's Republican governor, Peter Ricketts, and pass into law.

Nebraska's legislature had previously voted to repeal capital punishment in the state on April 17 and May 20, but Mr Ricketts had vetoed the legislation.

The governor had argued on Tuesday that repealing the death penalty "sends the wrong message" to the "overwhelming" number of Nebraskans who want to see it remain the law of the state.

The 10 people who remained on death row in the state will have their sentences reduced to life in prison. An eleventh person who was sentenced to be executed died of cancer on Tuesday after 30 years in prison.

The state has not executed a death row convict since 1997.

Executions have continued to decline in the United States with several states having abandoned the use of the death penalty without legally doing away with the punishment.

Last year, 80 per cent of executions in the United States were concentrated in Texas, Missouri and Florida.