OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ A three-time killer with an IQ of 65 was taken off Nebraska's death row Wednesday, saved by a law that bans executions of the mentally retarded.

Clarence Victor, 66, had his death sentence reduced to life in prison because of a state law passed last year that made it illegal to execute anyone with an IQ below 70.

``He was pleased,'' defense attorney Mark Weber said. ``He leaned over to me and repeatedly said, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.'''

State Sen. Ernie Chambers, who sponsored the bill, sat in the courtroom with Victor's sister.

``This law should not have been necessary because no civilized, mature society would ever entertain the possibility of executing anybody who was mentally retarded,'' Chambers said afterward.

The state attorney general said he would appeal.

``What this law does is let people with below-average intelligence, who do understand that it was wrong to kill, to escape the death penalty,'' Attorney General Don Stenberg said.

Victor was sentenced to death in 1988 for the 1987 beating death of Alyce Singleton of Omaha. He also had been convicted of manslaughter in 1964 for strangling a 40-year-old woman, and of second-degree murder in 1976 for slashing the throat of a 24-year-old woman.

Of the 38 states with capital punishment, Nebraska is one of 12 that prohibit execution of the mentally retarded.