Religion News Blog — A Nebraska court won’t consider a death row inmate’s appeal raising questions about the state’s new lethal injection method and how the drugs needed for it were obtained.
Michael Ryan, who sentenced to death for cult-related killings in 1985, should have filed a different kind of motion to challenge Nebraska’s execution method, according to a Richardson County District Court ruling on Thursday rejecting Ryan’s appeal. The Nebraska Supreme Court had blocked Ryan’s execution while the motion was pending.
Ryan, a white supremacist, was the leader of a cult-like survivalist group linked to the Posse Comitatus and to the so-called Christian Identity movement.
He was sentenced to death for the torture and murder of one of his followers, 25-year-old James Thimm, whom he said had displeased ‘Yahweh,’ the group’s 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.
Ryan was also convicted for the beating death of the 5-year-old son of another cult member.
The story of the murders was recounted in the book, Evil Harvest: The True Story of Cult Murder in the American Heartland.
Ryan filed an appeal Feb. 13 asking the judge to replace his death sentence with life in prison without parole. His 116-page motion alleged that Nebraska did business with an Indian drug broker who deceptively obtained a lethal injection drug from a Swiss manufacturer.
An executive for the Swiss company has since asked Nebraska to return the sodium thiopental because he never intended it to be used in an execution.
The anesthetic, the first drug administered in the state’s three-drug execution protocol, is no longer made in the United States and must be purchased abroad.
Ryan also challenged his 1986 sentence on the grounds that he was ordered to die in the electric chair, not by lethal injection. Nebraska switched methods in 2009, a year after the State Supreme Court ruled electrocution was cruel and unusual punishment.
The chief executive officer of Naari, the Swiss company, has said, “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.”
Like most civilized countries in the world, Switzerland has banned capital punishment.