Nebraska’s road to carrying out its first execution in more than two decades is littered with speed bumps.Many of those hindrances have been self-inflicted, owing to state officials’ overly broad, unjustified claim to privacy surrounding the four-drug cocktail with which they hope to end the lives of convicted killers Jose Sandoval and Carey Dean Moore, who’d be the first humans executed by these means.
Whether it’s the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and several media outlets – the Journal Star included – seeking the release of the drug sourcing or the recent suggestion that the state may have illegally obtained these substances, one common thread binds these struggles together.
All directly result from a lack of transparency. This outcome could have been avoided had the state merely been forthcoming about how the execution drugs were purchased and tested.
The state has repeatedly denied any impropriety, with Gov. Pete Ricketts accusing the ACLU of “fabricating charges in a desperate attempt to try to overturn the will of the people of Nebraska.”
Yes, Nebraskans voted the death penalty back into existence two years ago. But that ballot initiative didn’t exempt the state from accountability for how it carries out capital punishment.
Both the lawsuit and request for a Drug Enforcement Agency investigation are seeking just that. If the state legally obtained its execution drugs, then transparency would serve no harm. And it could easily be done in a manner that wouldn’t identify members of the execution team, despite the state’s professed grounds for denying multiple public records requests.
With the great power of determining life or death, the state must also bear the great responsibility of transparently laying out the process it will use to carry out this most severe sentence. To date, officials have not provided the requested details, hence the ongoing battles to extract this information to keep Nebraskans informed about how their government operates.
After all, we can’t reiterate enough that the state’s standing to tell Nebraskans “trust us” has been severely diminished by its past choices. For those who forgot the previous debacle, Nebraska had egg on its face – and no longer had $55,000 – after its shipment of sodium thiopental from a shadow broker in India was intercepted by the federal government.
Fool us once; shame on you. Fool us twice; shame on us.
And, to quote The Who’s anthem, we won’t get fooled again.
Until and unless the state proves that it has gone through the proper channels to purchase and test the drugs for its lethal injection process – which, again, has yet to be used in any execution – the calls for Nebraska officials to prove their acquisition of these substances remain justified.