LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ In the final hours of the 1999 legislative session, lawmakers chose not to challenge Gov. Mike Johanns' veto of a measure that would have made Nebraska the first state to legislate a moratorium on executions.

Instead, they voted unanimously Thursday to override his veto of a separate bill to study whether the death penalty is applied fairly. Executions will not be halted during the study.

``The moratorium, brothers and sisters, is dead,'' said Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, a death penalty opponent and co-sponsor of the bill.

Johanns, a Republican who supports capital punishment, vetoed the legislation Wednesday, calling it poor public policy and possibly unconstitutional.

The legislation called for a two-year moratorium on executions while the study was being done. Death sentences could have been issued during the moratorium, but no executions would have taken place.

In the end, the Legislature did not even take a vote to override the veto of the bill that called for a moratorium.

Three men have been put to death since Nebraska resumed executions in 1994 after a 35-year hiatus.

Paula Hutchinson, an attorney who represented the three men, said the Legislature's decision to study the issue means that Nebraska will remain a leader in the search for fairness in death penalty law. She said she has no doubt the study will show there are serious changes that need to be made.

Other states have considered moratoriums but have not adopted legislation. Supporters of such moratoriums include the American Bar Association and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.