Nebraska lethal injection

These straps will hold prisoners on the table during executions at the Nebraska State Penitentiary.

Associated Press file photo

A final version of the state's execution protocol was signed Thursday by Gov. Pete Ricketts and delivered to Secretary of State John Gale.  

Ricketts said the Department of Correctional Services was responsive to feedback provided in a Dec. 30 public hearing. 

Because of opposition to keeping the source of execution drugs confidential — opponents cited a violation of Nebraska's public-records laws and lack of transparency — the Corrections Department had said it would strike a paragraph in the proposed protocol that authorized that.

The first version of the protocol allowed the director to keep secret any records or information identifying a person, company, or entity supplying the substance or substances for lethal injection. 

The department may be coming at that from a different angle, however. 

Sen. John Kuehn of Heartwell has introduced a bill (LB661) in the Legislature that would make records confidential if that could lead to the identity of a person or entity that manufactures, supplies, compounds, or prescribes the drugs to perform a lethal injection. That bill has been routed to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, where it is more likely than in the Judiciary Committee to be advanced to the full Legislature. 

The protocol was revised shortly after Nebraskans voted in November to continue using the death penalty. That vote came after the Legislature voted to repeal it and substitute life in prison for first-degree murder convictions. 

Ten men in Nebraska have death sentences for first-degree murder convictions. No one, however, has been executed in Nebraska since Harold Lamont "Wili" Otey in 1994, John Joubert in 1996 and Robert Williams in 1997.

The newly revised protocol would allow the Corrections Department to use whatever appropriate lethal injection drugs are available, and would give only the inmate information on what drug(s) would be used and in what quantity 60 days before a request for a death warrant. 

“Finalizing the protocol will help carry out the will of the people of Nebraska in regards to the death penalty,” Ricketts said. 

Three Nebraska death row inmates, Carey Dean Moore, Jose Sandoval and John Lotter, have exhausted their state and federal appeals, according to Attorney General Doug Peterson, and could be first in line to have execution dates set.

A copy of the final protocol will be made available on the Secretary of State’s website at www.sos.ne.gov, according to Ricketts.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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State government reporter

JoAnne Young covers state government, including the Legislature and state agencies, and the people they serve.

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