Nebraska governor suspends efforts to obtain injection drugs

By GRANT SCHULTE

Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska’s governor announced Friday that the state will stop trying to obtain lethal injection drugs until after a statewide vote on capital punishment next November.

Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts said the state will wait to carry out executions until after the November 2016 vote, but he also acknowledged that his administration is considering alternatives to the state’s current three-drug protocol. Nebraska has struggled to obtain some of the drugs because of federal restrictions and the state’s inability to buy them from American or European manufacturers.

Lawmakers abolished capital punishment in May over Ricketts’ veto, but a statewide petition drive partially financed by the governor gathered enough signatures to suspend that decision and put the issue on the ballot.

“To give deference to the vote of the people, my administration will wait to carry out capital punishment sentences or make additional efforts to acquire drugs until the people of our state decide this issue,” Ricketts said in a written statement.

Nebraska hasn’t executed an inmate since 1997, using the electric chair, and had no executions scheduled when Ricketts made his announcement. The state lacks two of the three drugs in its execution protocol.

Nebraska bought $54,400 in foreign-made drugs from a distributor in India, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said they can’t be imported legally. Attempts to ship the drugs in August via FedEx were thwarted because the transport company said it lacked necessary paperwork for international shipping.

The salesman, Chris Harris, also sold to the state in 2010, but the drugs’ manufacturer later accused him of misrepresenting how he intended to use them. Legal challenges prevented the state from using that batch of drugs before it expired.

Nebraska prison officials also tried but failed in October to buy one of the required drugs, pancuronium bromide, from a Mississippi-based pharmaceutical company. The order was canceled a day later, after the company said the product wasn’t available.

Ricketts said he had “stepped up” conversations with Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson and correctional services director Scott Frakes about lethal injection protocols used in other states.

“My administration will continue to review potential protocol changes,” he said.

Nebraska currently has 10 men on death row.

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