LINCOLN (AP) — A lawyer for death-row inmate Michael Ryan has asked the Nebraska Supreme Court to order a review of how state corrections officials got a lethal injection drug made by a Swiss company.
Nebraska and several other states were forced to buy sodium thiopental overseas when the last U.S. manufacturer quit making it in 2010 because of death-penalty opposition from customers.
Nebraska prison officials bought the drug from a middleman named Chris Harris, and his company, Harris Pharma LLP. Attorney Jerry Soucie, who used to represent Ryan, has previously argued Harris was sold the drug in the form of samples and was not authorized to do so. That meant, Soucie argued, Harris misappropriated the thiopental and left Nebraska in possession of stolen property. Thus, he said, the state should not be allowed to use it.
Defense lawyer Rob Kortus of the Nebraska Commission of Public Advocacy questioned the quality of sodium thiopental in a court filing.
“If there can ever be a humane way of executing a human being with lethal injection in a three-drug protocol, the first drug has to work,” Kortus said in a brief filed this week. “That means effectively anesthetizing the person that has been condemned to die so that the first drug and the remaining two drugs can be administered without causing cruel and unusual pain.”
Sodium thiopental recently has been banned for export by the European Union and is becoming increasingly difficult to get. It is made in India and China.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit ruled earlier this year that the drug that Nebraska and several other states acquired should not have been allowed into the country.
The Nebraska Attorney General's Office has until Oct. 31 to respond to Kortus' filing.
Chief Deputy Attorney General David Cookson said Wednesday, “The only thing shocking in this case are the crimes committed by Michael Ryan and the unnecessary delays in his execution as a result of the meritless motions filed by his attorneys.”
Ryan was convicted in the cult-related 1985 killings of James Thimm, 26, and Luke Stice, 5, near the far southeastern Nebraska town of Rulo. He was sentenced to death for Thimm's murder. An execution date has not been set.
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