Gov. Pete Ricketts has made it official, vetoing the bill that repeals the death penalty.
Ricketts vetoed Legislative Bill 268 during a news conference held in his Capitol office hearing room Tuesday afternoon in which the governor was accompanied by the Attorney General, state senators, and family members of a murder victim.
Ricketts renewed his call on the public to pressure the legislature to sustain his veto.
“A vote with Sen. (Ernie) Chambers to repeal the death penalty sends the wrong message to Nebraskans, who I mentioned, overwhelmingly support the death penalty. Nebraskans expect their public officials to strengthen public safety, not weaken it,” Ricketts stated. “And it sends the message to criminals that Nebraska will be soft on crime.”
It will take work on Ricketts’ part to sustain the veto. Lawmakers passed LB 268, sponsored by Sen. Chambers, on a 32-15 vote. Supporters need 30 votes to override the veto. The governor must flip three votes to succeed.
Attorney General Doug Peterson says the brutal murder that landed cult leader Michael Ryan on death row illustrates the need to keep capital punishment on the books.
“We saw the type of choices he made, his total disregard for the sanctity of human life,” Peterson said. “Law enforcement and prosecutors need to have, as a tool, the ability to utilize the death penalty, because when those people choose to act in such a reprehensible way towards human life they, in effect, surrender their right to enjoy life.”
Ryan died on death row at the Tecumseh prison Sunday evening, according to officials with the Department of Correctional Services. Ryan led a cult encamped on a farm in southeastern Nebraska which preached about the end of the world. Ryan tortured and killed 26-year-old James Thimm and 5-year-old Luke Stice in 1985 near Rulo.
The Ryan case is one of two brought up often by supporters of capital punishment in Nebraska. That other case is the Norfolk bank robbery in which five people were killed on September 26th, 2002.
Vivian Tuttle says she will never forget that day when her daughter, Evonne, was shot to death.
“There was a camera inside of that bank and I watched my daughter get down on her knees, bow her head, and get shot,” Tuttle said during the governor’s news conference. “I want justice for my grandchildren. I want justice for all the other families. They need to have that. So, we need to keep the death penalty.”
AUDIO: Gov. Pete Ricketts holds news conference in which he vetoed LB 268. [12 min.]