High court asked to reject appeal by death-row inmate Ryan
The Nebraska Attorney General's Office asked the state Supreme Court on Monday to reject an appeal by death-row inmate Michael Ryan, who was sentenced to die in connection with one of the state's most heinous murders.
"Michael Ryan was found guilty and sentenced to death for brutally torturing and murdering another man more than 25 years ago," said Attorney General Jon Bruning. "There is no doubt Ryan is guilty. These meritless appeals only serve to delay justice."
Ryan's lawyer, Jerry Soucie of the Nebraska Commission of Public Advocacy, has appealed a March decision by Richardson County District Judge Daniel Bryan Jr., who rejected his appeal. The Supreme Court then issued a stay of Ryan's scheduled March 6 execution.
Soucie argued that Ryan was sentenced to die in the electric chair, which the state no longer uses. Nebraska switched to lethal injection after a 2008 state Supreme Court ruling that the chair was unconstitutional and cruel and unusual punishment. At the time, Nebraska was the only state with electrocution as its sole means of execution.
Soucie asked that Ryan's death sentence be reduced to life without parole.
Ryan was convicted in the cult-related 1985 killings of James Thimm, 26, and Luke Stice, 5, near Rulo. He was sentenced to death for Thimm's murder.
In his order, Bryan said courts have jurisdiction in such cases only if "a prisoner under sentence asserts facts that claim a right to be released on grounds that there was a denial or infringement of state or federal constitutional rights that would render the judgment or conviction void or voidable.
"Here, Ryan … is asking that his death sentence be vacated for constitutional infringements and that he be sentenced to life in prison without parole. The grounds he alleges occurred well after the final judgment in the criminal matter and do not deal with the judgments of the death sentence ordered by the court, but deal with the method of inflicting the death penalty."
That issue, the judge said, already was decided by the Nebraska Supreme Court in death-row cases in 2006 and 2008.
"Ryan's allegations regarding Nebraska's method of execution address issues wholly separate and apart from the constitutional validity of Ryan's judgment of conviction and sentence of death," said Solicitor General J. Kirk Brown in Monday's filing. "The district court accurately determined it lacked jurisdiction to reach the relative merits of Moore's motion."
Thimm was tortured for several days by members of Ryan's cult at their Rulo compound. He was beaten, his fingers were shot off, he was sodomized with a shovel handle, his legs were skinned and several of his bones were broken. Finally, Ryan killed him by stomping on his chest.
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