Ruling May Be Sign For Neb. Death Penalty
Ruling On Ark. Protocol Gives Possible Hope For Supporters
By NATE JENKINS
Associated Press Writer
Published: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 12:07 AM CST
LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska death-penalty supporters got a sign from Arkansas on Monday that a proposed lethal-injection protocol might withstand a court challenge if OK’d, as expected, by the governor.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Arkansas’ lethal injection protocol, saying “we conclude that it is designed to avoid the needless infliction of pain, not to cause it.”
The 8th Circuit covers Nebraska, as well as Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Its rulings set precedent for courts in those states.
The three-drug protocol in Arkansas is similar to the one expected to be approved by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman.
“We’re confident of the constitutionality of Nebraska’s lethal-injection protocol and this ruling reinforces that confidence,” said Allen Forkner, spokesman for Attorney General Jon Bruning.
Last year, Nebraska lawmakers approved lethal injection as a replacement for electrocution.
Their approval followed a 2008 state Supreme Court decision that struck down use of the electric chair, saying it was cruel and unusual punishment.
Nebraska has technically been without a means of carrying out the death penalty since then, but the state hasn’t had an execution for 13 years and experts say they don’t expect one for several more.
While the court decision bodes well for lethal-injection supporters in Nebraska, it doesn’t address issues an attorney said he expected to be raised in the first lawsuits challenging Nebraska’s lethal-injection protocol.
“The Nebraska issue relates to the procedure by which the Legislature delegated responsibility to the Department of Corrections,” to devise the actual steps in the lethal-injection protocol, said Jerry Soucie. It was Soucie’s court challenge while defending death-row inmate Raymond Mata Jr. that led the state Supreme Court to throw out the state’s use of the electric chair in 2008.
“That issue needs to be addressed before you get to the question of the specific protocol.”
Nebraska lawmakers approved lethal injection as a replacement for electrocution, but the exact three-drug cocktail and the process of administering it was devised by state corrections’ officials in consultation with several other states, not including Arkansas.
Lawmakers have said using the rule-making process to craft the protocol would provide flexibility to comply with the most up-to-date court rulings on lethal injection.
Bruning approved the protocol after reviewing the proposal from the corrections’ department. It was sent to Heineman’s office last month for review.
Heineman, a lethal-injection supporter, is expected to sign off on the protocol.http://www.yankton.net/articles/2010/02/09/news/doc4b70f95c49051458490385.txt