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The Nebraska Board of Pardons made short work of applications for commutation hearings Tuesday morning, denying all four, including a request from death row inmate Carey Dean Moore.

The vote was 3-0 from Gov. Pete Ricketts, Attorney General Doug Peterson and Secretary of State John Gale to deny Moore's application. 

The board also denied commutation hearings for two other convicted murderers, Mario Escamilla, who killed a Lincoln man, Thomas Gushard Sr., in 1986; and David Ware, who killed Charles Malstead during a robbery in 1983 in Omaha. Both men have life sentences.

Gale said the board treated Moore's request as a standard application for a commutation hearing, since the Supreme Court has issued no execution warrant for him. On April 3, Peterson requested an execution date. 

If an execution warrant is issued, it's the board's policy to grant a commutation hearing, or at least consider one, in addition to the application considered Tuesday, Gale said.  

Ricketts said during a news conference that the board would consider what the law is and previous precedent on granting a hearing.

On Moore's application, he said he had been on death row for more than 37 years and the state has been unsuccessful in putting him to death.

"Apparently they do not want to execute me even though I haven't filed any appeals in over 10 years," Moore wrote. "Therefore, since they are either lazy or incompetent to do their jobs, or both, I should receive a full pardon." 

Gale, an 18-year member of the board, said Moore was entitled to whatever free speech rights he wanted to exercise, but death row murder cases have a lot of complexities, including appeals, court hearings, procedural challenges and case reviews. 

Particularly since the citizens of Nebraska decided on an initiative petition vote that the death penalty still was the law in Nebraska, the next-logical step would be a writ of execution, he said. 

Gale said the board in its decision exercised "a deep concern for the public safety and security." 

Ricketts said his administration has made it clear it is working to carry out the law and the sentences.

"We’re making progress along those lines, as you’ve seen, and we’re just going to keep going through the process one step at a time," Ricketts said. 

The state has not executed a condemned prisoner in more than 20 years, but in the past six months has notified both Moore and Jose Sandoval of the lethal injection drugs that would be used if they are executed.

Moore, 60, has received two stays of execution in the past 11 years. In 1979, he killed Reuel Van Ness Jr. during a robbery of his cab, then five days later killed another cab driver, Maynard Helgeland, to prove he could take a man's life "all by himself." 

Last week, Peterson submitted a sworn statement to the Supreme Court saying there were no stays of execution or pending federal court proceedings on Moore.

At Tuesday's meeting, the Pardons Board denied all applications for pardon hearings except two — for Jacqueline Busby Isah-Wiley and Steven Abboud, both from Douglas County — which it tabled. 

Nebraska's 11 death row inmates

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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