Death Penalty History

(Lincoln) -- Nebraska will be looking at a number of options to maintain the death penalty.

Nebraska has been blocked from carrying out executions, because it cannot get adequate supplies of sodium thiopental, the drug the state would use as an anesthetic. No longer produced domestically, the drug has become increasingly difficult to obtain from European manufacturers who have been blocked from selling it for use in executions.

Missouri has announced it will change its death penalty protocol after it became difficult to receive propofol, an anesthetic used in its three-drug protocol. The state now will use the sedative pentobarbital and is considering a switch to a one-drug protocol.

Attorney General Jon Bruning says Nebraska will be review the move by other states toward a one-drug protocol to carry out lethal injection, rather than the three-drug method now on the books.

“Certainly, that’s under discussion. The governor and I have had conversations and will continue to have conversations. That’s one of the options,” Bruning says. “We both believe that the men on death row deserve the penalties that have been meted out by the courts and judges.”

Some states, such as Texas and Ohio, have begun using compounding pharmacies to prepare the needed drugs, which would avoid difficulties in buying from manufacturers under pressure by death penalty opponents to not sell drugs for use in executions.

Oklahoma was the first state to use a one-drug protocol; using pentobarbital for an execution.

Bruning says his office has been reviewing the changes made by other states.

“We have had reviews of what a number of states are doing. There’s of course the three-drug protocol we use. There’s a one-drug protocol. There are various options and I think if you were to see any sort of change in the protocol it would give Corrections a number of different options. We don’t (want to) hamstring ourselves with one option,” Bruning says.

Nebraska has some sodium thiopental on hand, but it expires in December. It has become increasingly difficult to get for use in executions.

The legislature could change the state execution protocol or changes could be made to the regulations used by the state Department of Correctional Services.

The state switched to lethal injection after a 2009 Nebraska Supreme Court ruling declared the electric chair to be cruel and unusual punishment. Nebraska last carried out an execution in 1997. Eleven prisoners now reside on death row.

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