Ernie Chambers files a complaint on Nebraska’s execution protocol

Ernie Chambers files a complaint on Nebraska’s execution protocol
The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services' execution room in Lincoln, as seen from the viewing room. (World-Herald News Service)

LINCOLN — Nebraska’s most ardent death penalty opponent has challenged the state’s execution protocol in a complaint filed with the Legislature.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers said Nebraska law provides a procedure for any member of the Legislature to file a complaint with the Executive Board. The Omaha senator filed such a complaint this week. It has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee for a public hearing to question prison officials about the state’s planned execution method.

Chambers’ complaint alleges:

» Prison officials have violated federal law requiring special licenses from the Drug Enforcement Administration to obtain, store and dispense lethal injection drugs at the Nebraska State Penitentiary, where an execution would be carried out.

» The protocol approved by Gov. Pete Ricketts in 2017 violated Nebraska’s Administrative Procedures Act because copies of certain required documents were withheld from the public.

» Prison officials intend to use a new four-drug combination that includes a paralytic drug called cisatracurium besylate. Chambers said the paralytic would mask an inmate’s signs of pain, distress or suffering, which would violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Prison officials announced in November that they had obtained the drugs necessary to carry out an execution. They have notified death row inmates Jose Sandoval and Carey Dean Moore that the drugs are in their possession, the first step necessary to schedule an execution. Nebraska has not carried out an execution since 1997 when the method was the electric chair.

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