In a ruling handed down today, the Nebraska Supreme Court largely upheld a lower court's ruling that Director Scott Frakes of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services ran afoul of state transparency laws by withholding public records related to the purchase of lethal execution drugs to be used in the killing of Carey Dean Moore in 2018.
The original ruling was in response to separate complaints filed by the Nebraska ACLU, the Omaha World-Herald, and the Lincoln Journal Star, who all sought these records under the Freedom of Information Act - records which Frakes refused to release. The state's defense hinged on the argument that records about the purchase of the drugs could be used to identify members of NDCS's execution team, whose identities are protected by law. The original ruling, upheld today by the Supreme Court, found that most of the records being sought would not divulge sufficient information to identify execution team members. The Supreme Court went a step further, in fact, stating the documents that do contain identifying information should simply be redacted before release.
Transparency in government is critical, and this is especially true when it comes to both the expenditure of public funds and the administration of capital punishment. Civic-minded Nebraskans everywhere should find it unacceptable to see this administration go to such lengths to hide critical details about its efforts to execute condemned prisoners, and we at Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty applaud the Supreme Court for requiring greater accountability of our elected officials. The more we learn about the cost and uneven application of the broken death penalty in our state, the closer we get to abolishing this barbaric practice once and for all!