After Spending Big to Reinstate Death Penalty, Nebraska Gov. Brushes Aside Pope's Call to Push Forward With Plan for 'Experimental Execution'

"Will Catholic [Gov. Pete Ricketts], who spends a lot of time talking about his 'pro-life values,' heed the words of Pope Francis by cancelling the experimental execution scheduled for August 14 in Nebraska?" asks Sister Helen Prejean

Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

Nebraska's Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts confirmed Thursday that his state is going forward with its first death penalty execution in more than 20 years.

The confirmation, indicated in an email to the Omaha World-Herald in which he asserted the death penalty is "an important tool," came in the wake of Pope Francis' announcement of a shift in church teaching, which now sees the death penalty as "inadmissible" in all situations.

"While I respect the pope's perspective, capital punishment remains the will of the people and the law of the state of Nebraska," said Ricketts, a Catholic who poured money into the campaign to reinstate the death penalty. The World-Herald previously reported that he dumped $300,000 into the pro-death penalty campaign.

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The shift in church doctrine, however, did prompt the state's three bishops to urgeconstituents to call state officials and press them to halt plans for the Aug. 14 execution of Carey Dean Moore, who was sentenced in 1980 for double murder.

To kill Moore, the state plans on using a never-before tried four-drug cocktail.

Ricketts' insistence on following through with killing also comes despite drugmakers' objections over their products being used for a lethal injection.

"We are again asking the Nebraska DOC (Department of Corrections) to return any Pfizer restricted product," the pharmaceutical company stated. In addition, as the Associated Press reported, "Representatives of Sandoz Inc. and Hikma Pharmaceuticals sent letters late last month urging state officials to return their drugs for a refund or provide assurances they won't be used in executions."

Noted death penalty activist and Dead Man Walking author Sister Helen Prejean entered the fray, asking on Twitter: "Will Catholic @GovRicketts, who spends a lot of time talking about his 'pro-life values,' heed the words of Pope Francis by cancelling the experimental execution scheduled for August 14 in Nebraska? #DontKillForNE."

Whether or not Ricketts heeds those words, Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is planning to hold a rally outside the state Capitol on Aug. 14 "to speak out against the failed death penalty system which is broken beyond repair."

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Andrea Germanos is a staff writer for Common Dreams.