Execution Stayed

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman has criticized the stay of execution granted to death-row inmate Carey Dean Moore. In a statement released Thursday the governor is quoted as saying, “This unprecedented judicial activism leaves me speechless.”

The Nebraska Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the execution. Moore had been scheduled to be put to death on Tuesday for the 1979 murders of two Omaha cab drivers.

The high court issued the stay after state Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha this week wrote the state Supreme Court and petitioned the Lancaster County District Court in an attempt to suspend executions until the new electrocution protocol is reviewed.

Chamber objected to a new electrocution protocol the state recently adopted for Moore's execution.

The new execution protocol-- formulated after a court questioned the old protocol -- calls for an 18-minute wait before officials determine whether an inmate is dead.

Critics say the new protocol is slipshod, pieced together with the advice of a Florida doctor as the state scrambled to comply with a court decision several years ago.

Moore notified the Supreme Court in March that he was ending the legal challenges to his execution.

Chambers alleged that the state violated its own rules when it came up with the new protocol.

The new protocol calls for one 2,450-volt application of electricity for 20 seconds instead of four separate jolts of varying voltage -- the method a court had determined would cause undue suffering.

Chambers said the state corrections department didn't follow a law that requires public hearings and state oversight when devising the new protocol.

"Under Nebraska law, the mode of inflicting a punishment of death, in all cases, is 'by causing to pass through the body... a current of electricity of sufficient intensity to cause death,' " wrote Judge John Gerrard. "In another case on our docket, we have been asked to determine whether electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment.

"And we have repeatedly noted that recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court at least raised the question whether electrocution is constitutional," Gerrard wrote.

"Our constitutional responsibility to decide whether electrocution is lawful requires us to consider whether any convicted person should be electrocuted before that question is answered."

Moore was stunned by the court's decision, his lawyer Alan E. Peterson said Wednesday.

"I think his first reaction is sort of numbness," Peterson said. "He was planning to die and so now, he's planning to live."

Channel 6 News spoke with Senator Chambers after the stay was issued.

"I felt a great relief wash over me and something that has been weighting me down has been lifted," says Chambers. "I don't want the State of Nebraska to kill someone ever again and it's as simple as that."

Dr. Ronald Wright of Florida, whose advice the state relied upon when devising the new protocol, said in a 2002 report there was a "high probability" of the heart restarting after a single jolt of electricity.

Among the concerns about the new protocol is that the condemned could be set on fire during a continuous application of electricity. Chambers noted that Wright recommended that a fire extinguisher be nearby during the execution.