Nebraska high court grants stay of execution for cult leader Michael Ryan

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ReligionNewsBlog.com — The Nebraska Supreme Court on Thursday put on hold the execution of a death row inmate condemned to die for two 1985 cult-related slayings at a farm near Rulo.

The Associated Press says

Michael Ryan had been scheduled to be executed March 6.

His attorney, Jerrie Soucie, with the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, had filed a motion with the state’s high court last week asking for a stay of execution while a lower court considers his request to have Ryan’s sentence commuted to life in prison.

The state supreme court granted Soucie’s motion Thursday, noting that Ryan’s postconviction filing in Richardson County District Court was reason enough to put the execution on hold.

Ryan was convicted of torturing and killing James Thimm at a southeast Nebraska farm near Rulo in 1985, and for the beating death of the 5-year-old son of a cult member. […]

At the time of the killing near Rulo, Ryan and about 20 cult members lived at the farm and stored weapons in preparation for a final battle between good and evil.

Ryan, known to cult members as the “King,” ordered the murder of Thimm because Ryan believed he had displeased Yahweh, their god. Over three days, Thimm was beaten, sexually abused, shot, stomped and partially skinned while still alive. His fingertips had been shot off on one hand.

Yesterday the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office asked the State Supreme Court to reject Soucie’s request.

Defense Attorney Jerry Soucie argued Ryan cannot be executed by lethal injection because he was sentenced to die in the electric chair, and also because the state used questionable tactics to obtain a drug slated to be used in the execution.

The chief executive officer of Naari, the Swiss company that produced the drug the state of Nebraska obtained under false pretenses from a third-arty broker says, “I am shocked and appalled [by the news that Nebraski had obtained the drug]. 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.”

Nebraska last executed someone in 1997. In 2008 the state ruled that death by electrocution was cruel and unusual punishment. A year later the state Legislature changed Nebraska’s method of execution to lethal injection.

Ryan is one of 11 men currently on Nebraska’s death row.

Supreme Court Order

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This post was last updated: May. 9, 2014