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Nebraska Gives Execution Notice, New Protocol

Paul Hammel and Joe Duggan report for the Omaha World-Herald:

LINCOLN -- The State of Nebraska took a big step Thursday toward executing its first death-row inmate in 20 years, using an untried combination of lethal-injection drugs.

Attorney General Doug Peterson said Thursday that he is prepared to request a death warrant for Jose Sandoval after at least 60 days, which is the minimum notice period for condemned inmates under the state's execution protocol. The Nebraska Supreme Court issues death warrants if an inmate has no pending appeals.
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The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services notified Sandoval that it will inject four drugs in the following order: diazepam, fentanyl citrate, cisatracurium besylate and potassium chloride.
Diazepam (brand names include Valium) is a benzodiazepine that is used to produce a calming effect. Fentanyl citrate is a general anesthetic that has been used since the 1960s. As an opioid, it also blocks pain, which has made it a popular a street drug linked to lethal overdoses.

Cisatracurium besylate (brand name: Nimbex) relaxes or paralyzes muscles and is used along with a general anesthetic when intubating patients or doing surgery.

The final drug, potassium chloride, is used to stop the inmate's heart. It was the only drug that was also used in Nebraska's former three-drug combination.

So this is largely the original three-drug protocol with fentanyl substituted as the anesthetic for the now-unavailable thiopental and Nimbex substituted as the paralytic for the old pancuronium bromide.

Why is Valium tacked on the front?  I don't know that it has any pain-reducing effect, but I do not pretend to any expertise in the area.  Just to make the murderer less anxious?  I don't think we have any obligation to spare a murderer from anxiety over receiving his richly deserved punishment.  I expect the reason will be stated in the forthcoming litigation.

But who will bring the litigation?  Who has standing?  The multiple murderer who got the notice had his direct appeal completed in 2011 and has not filed for any further reviews.  Is he a "volunteer"?  Maybe that is why he was chosen.

Would a challenge be successful?  Could Sandoval or anyone else with standing get a preliminary injunction?

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, California, said that in 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court established "a fairly high hurdle for those who would stop a lethal injection."

In deciding a lethal injection dispute in Oklahoma, the court said that to prevent an execution, the drug must present a "demonstrated risk of causing severe pain" in the inmate and the risk must be substantial compared with known alternative drugs, Scheidegger said.

"The objection that a drug has never been used before is not valid by itself," he said.
That doesn't stop the usual suspects from making the objection, of course, as quoted in the article.

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