ACLU of Nebraska files lawsuit to force state to identify supplier of lethal injection drugs

LINCOLN — The ACLU of Nebraska is not taking no for an answer.

Friday morning, the group filed a lawsuit asking a judge to compel the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services to release information related to the recent purchase of lethal injection drugs to carry out an execution.

The civil rights group, in its lawsuit, claims the state violated the Nebraska Public Records Act by not releasing the information.

Multiple media outlets, including The World-Herald, have made similar public records requests of corrections. The requests to release of information were denied recently.

Danielle Conrad, executive director of ACLU of Nebraska, said the refusal to release such information violates a “bedrock Nebraska tradition” of open government.

“Today the ACLU of Nebraska filed suit to force the crisis-riddled Department of Corrections to identify the supplier of recently obtained lethal injection drugs in compliance with our strong open records laws,” Conrad said in a press release.

She said the state’s past attempts to obtain lethal injection drugs involved “a shady history of backroom deals and attempts to circumvent federal law.”

The ACLU pointed out that without public records requests in 2015, the public would not have discovered a botched purchase of lethal injection drugs by the state, an effort that wasted $54,000 in taxpayer funds.

The state last month announced that it had obtained four drugs to allow it to carry out an execution. It did so through a notification to death row inmate Jose Sandoval, a notification required prior to seeking an execution date.

Corrections has denied requests to identify the supplier, citing “attorney-client privilege.” The agency has also cited a state law that members of the execution team members are not to be identified.

The ACLU’s lawsuit was filed in Lancaster County District Court. It was not immediately clear when a judge would act on the request.

The four drugs obtained by the state are diazepam, fentanyl citrate, potassium chloride and cisatracurium besylate. If they are used, it would be the first time such a four-drug protocol is utilized for an execution, national death-penalty officials have said.

Nebraska has not carried out the death penalty for two decades, and back then the state still used the electric chair, which the Nebraska Supreme Court has since ruled unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment.

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