On August 14, 2018, the state of Nebraska used an untested cocktail of drugs to execute Carey Dean Moore, who had spent over 38 years on death row. The procedure included a period of approximately 14 minutes where a curtain was drawn between the viewing gallery and the execution chamber, prompting a chorus of complaints over a further disregard for transparency by an administration already known for it.
But that wasn't the only controversy. The execution was carried out in spite of ongoing disputes over the execution protocol itself, which marked the first execution in the United States involving the powerful opiate fentanyl. German pharmaceutical manufacturer Fresenius Kabi even sought a court injunction on the procedure, as it forbids distributors from reselling any of its products to state entities for the purpose of carrying out the death penalty - but the injunction was denied, at least in part because there was "no evidence" that the state's doses of cisatracurium besylate were manufactured by the company. But there was evidence: the Ricketts administration simply withheld it.
Before the execution took place, the Lincoln Journal-Star, the Omaha World-Herald, and the Nebraska ACLU filed open records request lawsuits to attempt to determine where the execution drugs were obtained. True to form, the state stonewalled this effort, arguing that disclosing the source of the drugs would expose the identities of execution team members - which are protected under the Nebraska State Constitution. Earlier this year, more than 20 months after Moore's execution, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the state must release the requested records, with any legally-protected information redacted. Read our update on that ruling here.
Today, those records were released. Community Pharmacy Services, a small independent pharmacy based in Gretna, was contracted to provide pharmaceutical services to the Nebraska Department of Corrections from 2016-2018. This includes the resale of approximately $8,000 worth of fentanyl, diazepam, cisatracurium, and potassium chloride - and photos of the packaging released proved that the cisatracurium and potassium chloride were indeed manufactured by Fresenius Kabi (or one of its subsidiaries), in breach of contracts the company makes with its stateside distributors.
According to the Omaha World-Herald report, Kyle Janssen, owner of Community Pharmacy Services, released a statement shortly after the records went public. "I regretted the decision [to sell the drugs in question] as it does not align with our company's values to provide the best patient care and customer service to the long-term care industry," he said. He added that the company followed all federal Drug Enforcement Administration protocols and understood the potential use of those drugs. He did not address where they came from.
It remains to be seen whether Fresenius Kabi will seek legal recourse in response to today's revelation that its distributor contract was violated for the purpose of killing. But it's hard not to conclude that the denial of the injunction it sought against the use of the drugs in his execution was based on intentionally-withheld information. Carey Dean Moore might even be alive today if the Ricketts administration hadn't so clearly carried out yet another unacceptable abuse of power. The broken death penalty must be abolished!