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Nebraska lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill Tuesday intended to make the states death-penalty laws comply with a recent US Supreme Court ruling Lawmakers voted 36-7 to advance the bill which was introduced on behalf of Gov Mike Johanns It faces two more rounds of consideration before it can be sent to Johanns to sign into law Johanns called the special session to deal with constitutional questions in the states death-penalty laws Key to that decision was a US Supreme Court ruling Ring v Arizona in June that said juries not judges must decide if a murder merits the death penalty In Nebraska judges have made that determination since the Legislature decided in the 1970s that there was the potential of bias by juries The bill LB1 would have juries make the determination Earlier Tuesday the Legislatures Judiciary Committee rejected a bill that would have changed the states method of execution to lethal injection Committee chairman Kermit Brashear of Omaha said the bill LB2 was killed because there is no immediate need to end Nebraskas use of the electric chair Nebraska is the only state with the chair as its sole means of execution which some fear could lead a court to rule the states death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment Brashear would not say if killing the bill - which was done on a 5-2 vote - was an attempt to appease Omaha Sen Ernie Chambers the Legislatures most ardent death-penalty opponent Some people would like to make that a deal - I think thats much too simplistic and sinister he said Were not playing cards There are no deals in legislating he said Legislating is a process of being constantly in touch with your colleagues and being sensitive to their interests values principles beliefs and the like Chambers is known to cripple or kill bills he does not like by using
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