By GRANT SCHULTE
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Gov. Pete Ricketts argued Friday that Nebraska has remained judicious in its use of the death penalty and said he was working to reinstate capital punishment after the state’s supply of a lethal injection drug expired.
Capital punishment serves as an important tool for prosecutors, Ricketts said, even though it is seldom used.
His comments came one day after lawmakers gave first-round approval to a bill that would end capital punishment. The Republican governor has promised to veto the measure, which still has to advance through two more votes in the Legislature.
“We’re not Texas,’’ Ricketts said. “We use it judiciously here. We only have 11 people on death row.”
Texas executed 10 inmates in 2014 and has put six to death so far this year, according to that state’s Department of Criminal Justice.
Nebraska has sentenced 33 offenders to death since 1973, three of whom were executed. The last was Robert E. Williams, who was electrocuted in 1997. Williams confessed to killing three women and trying to kill a fourth during a three-day rampage in 1977 that crossed into three states.
Nebraska has 11 men currently sitting on death row. One of the inmates, Carey Dean Moore, has been awaiting execution for 35 years for killing two taxi drivers.
Ricketts said he was working with his new corrections director, Scott Frakes, to reinstate a functional death penalty, but declined to say when or how that might happen.
Nebraska is required under state law to use a three-drug protocol for executions, but its supply of sodium thiopental _ a required anesthetic _ expired in December 2013. The drug is nearly impossible to buy because it’s produced by European pharmaceutical companies that are forbidden from selling drugs used for capital punishment.
“Certainly I think there are other options beyond just the current protocol,” Ricketts said.
Death penalty supporters argue the punishment is warranted for crimes that are especially heinous, or those that involved children as victims. Some of the state’s current death row inmates were convicted of sexual assaults, robberies or torturing victims while committing murder.
Some conservative lawmakers, though, believe the hurdles have reached the point where state will never execute another inmate.