Transparency Concerns Surface after Nebraska’s First Lethal Injection Execution


Deborah Denno was quoted in a Omaha World Herald article about lethal injection as a form of capital punishment.

The media witnesses in Nebraska reported that Moore’s eyes shut and remained closed shortly after he received the first sedative drug in the lethal sequence. They also reported that Moore underwent a period of labored breathing and he coughed several times. In addition, they said his face and hands started turning purple about seven minutes after the first drug was given.

The witnesses did not report seeing writhing, facial grimaces or other signs of obvious pain that have surfaced in reports of botched executions. Two family members who witnessed the Moore execution said afterward that they did not believe he suffered.

But Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University in New York who has studied lethal injection for more than 25 years, said the “lack of transparency” in Tuesday’s execution was “disturbing.” Problems with botched executions have surfaced at the beginning when the IV lines are set and again after the final drug is administered, times when the inmate is most likely to experience pain.

“The parts of the execution that would be most problematic would be the portions you didn’t see,” said Denno, who said she doesn’t oppose the death penalty in theory, but opposes it in the manner it currently exists.

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