"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bill would let Nebraska prison officials hide identities of lethal injection suppliers

Nebraska Governor (R) Pete Ricketts
Nebraska Governor (R) Pete Ricketts: "I will make every effort to proceed
with the executions of the 10 men on Nebraska's death row."
Nebraska prison officials would be allowed to hide the identities of their lethal injection suppliers under a proposal introduced Wednesday on the final day of bill introduction in the state Legislature.

The bill would allow authorities to withhold any information "reasonably calculated to lead to the identity" of an entity or individual that "manufactures, supplies, compounds or prescribes" drugs used to carry out an execution.

Sen. John Kuehn of Heartwell, who sponsored Legislative Bill 661, said it's the Legislature's responsibility to comply with the majority of Nebraska voters who cast ballots in favor of capital punishment in November. He suggested providing confidentiality to drug makers would remove one of the obstacles that makes capital punishment dysfunctional.

Most of the leading death penalty states shield the identities of the lethal drug suppliers, saying the information is used by capital punishment opponents to pressure suppliers not to make or sell the drugs for executions.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a strong supporter of the death penalty, is pursuing changes to the state's lethal injection protocol that include similar secrecy provisions. The governor also wants to withhold the type of drug the state plans to use until 60 days before the attorney general asks the Nebraska Supreme Court for a death warrant.

Kuehn's 2-page bill addresses no other issues except for shielding the identity of the drug supplier. He said Wednesday that Ricketts did not ask him to introduce it.

While the senator said he thinks the existing lethal injection law allows prison officials to shield information from public disclosure, he said addressing it specifically in statute would help keep the death penalty functional.

In 2015 the Legislature repealed the death penalty over the governor's veto. But in November, 61 % of voters overturned the repeal and reinstated capital punishment.

Ricketts has said he will make every effort to proceed with the executions of the 10 men on Nebraska's death row.

Death penalty opponents have argued that the state has an obligation to keep the execution process open to public scrutiny. They also have predicted confidentiality provisions will simply be subject to legal challenges.

Source: Omaha World-Herald, January 18, 2017

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