Attorney General to Challenge Part of Death Penalty Repeal

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LINCOLN, Neb.-- Death penalty supporters are looking to challenge the Nebraska legislature's landmark repeal vote.

The Nebraska Attorney General's office said Thursday it plans to challenge part of the law that prevents the state from executing 10 current death row inmates.

Attorneys plan to argue that the law violates the state constitution, which gives the Board of Pardons exclusive power to change final sentences.

"I believe at the end of the day that the courts will find that we do have the ability to continue with the executions of the 10 individuals that are on death row because the courts placed them there," Sen. Beau McCoy, of Omaha, said.

Some legal experts said the state may have a point. Right now, the state has two options - either prove part of the repeal is unconstitutional or try another form of capital punishment.

"For them to be executed," Eric Berger, an associate professor at UNL, said, "the state would have to enact legislatively a new method of execution, and that's highly unlikely, at least in the short term."

Sen. Ernie Chambers, the new law's sponsor, says the measure makes clear that the Legislature isn't changing the sentences. He says the law merely removes the death penalty as a punishment, meaning the state has no legal way to carry out executions.

McCoy also said he is also considering a ballot initiative to reinstate capital punishment.

"It's one that I think Nebraskans really want to weigh in on," McCoy said.

"They want the opportunity to let their voices be heard at the ballot box on this issue. So, I fully expect it to be very successful."