Nebraska asks high court to keep cult leader’s execution on track

ReligionNewsBlog.com — The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office has asked the State Supreme Court to reject a request by death row inmate Michael Ryan to put his execution, scheduled for March 6, on hold.

Ryan, a white supremacist, was the leader of a cult-like survivalist group linked to Posse Comitatus, and links to the so-called Christian Identity movement.

Ryan was sentenced to death in September 1985 after he was convicted in the murders of two members of the group, including 5-year old Luke Stice.

Together with two of his followers, Ryan later murdered James Thimm, after he had tortured him for several days, beating him, forcing him to have sex with a goat, then skinning him alive and raping him with a shovel before finally beating him to death.

The story of the murders was recounted in the book, Evil Harvest: The True Story of Cult Murder in the American Heartland.

The Journal Star says


Jerry Soucie of the Nebraska Commission of Public Advocacy asked the court to withdraw Ryan’s March 6 execution warrant until Richardson County District Judge Daniel Bryan Jr. rules on Ryan’s latest appeal, which argues that he was sentenced to die in the electric chair, which the state no longer uses.

Nebraska switched its method of execution to lethal injection after a 2008 ruling from the state Supreme Court that said the electric chair amounted to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment. At the time, Nebraska was the only state with electrocution as its sole means of execution.
Soucie has said the sodium thiopental Nebraska bought to use in lethal execution was meant to be used for test and evaluation purposes in Zambia and was not supposed to be sold.

He also has asked that Ryan’s death sentence be reduced to life without parole. […]

In Tuesday’s filing, Solicitor General J. Kirk Brown said: “None of Ryan’s alleged grounds for relief challenge the state or federal constitutional validity of the sentence imposed for Ryan’s crime.

“As this court has repeatedly held: ‘Nebraska’s statutes specifying … the mode of inflicting the death penalty are separate, and severable, from the procedures by which the trial court sentences the defendant.'”

Last November the Omaha World-Herald reported that

Nebraska prison officials intend to keep a new supply of a lethal injection drug, over the objections of a pharmaceutical executive who says the drug was improperly obtained and sold to the state.

The chief executive officer of Naari, the Swiss company that produced the sodium thiopental — which is now waiting to be used in Nebraska’s execution chamber — has asked the state to return the drug, saying it was obtained under false pretenses by a third-party broker. CEO Prithi Kochhar made the request in a Nov. 18 letter to Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican.

“I am shocked and appalled by this news,” Kochhar wrote. “Naari did not supply these medicines directly to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services and is deeply opposed to the use of the medicines in executions.” […]

The drug is no longer made in the United States and is becoming increasingly scarce abroad because of the controversy surrounding its use in lethal injections. Nebraska joined the market for the drug when it switched its execution method from electrocution to lethal injection in 2009.

Like most civilized countries in the world, Switzerland has banned capital punishment.

Torture and murder tied to survivalist group stun a Nebraska farming community

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This post was last updated: May. 9, 2014