Condemned killer Michael Ryan asked a judge Monday to throw out his death
sentence, arguing that the state intends to carry out the lethal injection
using a stolen Swiss drug that fails to meet U.S. purity standards.
Ryan also plans to ask the Nebraska Supreme Court to stay his execution,
scheduled for March 6. Jerry Soucie, a lawyer with the Nebraska Commission on
Public Advocacy who represents Ryan, said he will file the motion with the high
court on Tuesday.
Soucie filed a 116-page motion late Monday in Richardson County District Court
in Falls City, Neb. Ryan, a former religious cult leader, was convicted of
killing 2 of his followers in 1985 at an encampment near the Richardson County
village of Rulo.
A spokeswoman for Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said Monday night that
the motion was being reviewed. She offered no further comment.
Ryan's new claim raises legal challenges to the state's authority to use lethal
injection on a death row inmate sentenced to die by electrocution.
Nebraska abandoned the electric chair in 2008 after the state Supreme Court
ruled it was cruel and unusual punishment. The next year the state adopted
lethal injection for executions.
Ryan's motion also repeats past contentions that the Nebraska Department of
Correctional Services was conned into buying a stolen death drug late last year
from an Indian pharmaceutical broker. The Swiss manufacturer of sodium
thiopental has said it didn't intend the drug to be sold for use in lethal
Using an illegally obtained drug would violate the state's lethal injection
procedures, which call for the drugs to be obtained through the department's
pharmaceutical supervisor or another "appropriate" source, Ryan's motion
Sodium thiopental is the first of three drugs to be administered in Nebraska's
lethal injection protocol.
Ryan's motion also notes laboratory tests done on the sodium thiopental before
it was sold to Nebraska. The tests indicated the drug was about 89 percent
pure, but U.S. standards require it to be 97 percent pure. Ryan alleges the
drug has been adulterated.
The motion raises constitutional challenges to Ryan's death sentence on 5
In past statements, Bruning has denied that the drug in question was stolen. He
also has pointed to courts in other jurisdictions that have ruled the method by
which a state obtains lethal injection drugs is irrelevant.
(source: Omaha World-Herald)