First Fentanyl Execution Carried Out In Nebraska

By Kelly Burch 08/16/18

Fentanyl was one of four drugs used to kill Carey Dean Moore.

Carey Dean Moore
Carey Dean Moore Photo via YouTube

Nebraska has become the first state to execute an inmate using the powerful synthetic opioid, fentanyl. 

On Tuesday, August 15, the state used a lethal injection of fentanyl to execute Carey Dean Moore, a 60-year-old man who was given the death penalty for killing two cab drivers, Reuel Van Ness Jr. and Maynard Helgeland, in 1979. 

Fentanyl was one of four drugs used to kill Moore. According to the New York Times, the four-drug cocktail included "diazepam, a tranquilizer; fentanyl citrate, a powerful synthetic opioid that can block breathing and knock out consciousness; cisatracurium besylate, a muscle relaxant; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart."

The first drug was injected at 10:24 a.m., and Moore was pronounced dead at 10:47 a.m.

As drug manufacturers increasingly refuse to allow the use of their products for lethal injection, states are looking for alternative means of execution. Some people say that this is why states are using fentanyl, a painkiller that has become better known as a dangerous street drug that is blamed for rising overdose deaths around the nation. 

“There’s no particular reason why one would use fentanyl,” Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, told The Washington Post. “No one has used it before, and we’ve had hundreds and hundreds of executions by injection. That suggests that the state is using fentanyl because it can get its hands on it.”

Scott R. Frakes, director of Nebraska’s Department of Correctional Services, said in a federal affidavit that states were very limited in the drugs they could use for executions. 

“Lethal substances used in a lethal injection execution are difficult, if nearly impossible, to obtain,” he wrote. 

In July, Nevada was slated to become the first state to use fentanyl as part of a lethal injection. However, the execution was stopped because Alvogen, the maker of the sedative midazolam, objected to the drug’s use as part of a lethal injection. 

After a judge blocked the execution, the company said that it “does not condone the use of any of its drug products, including midazolam, for use in state-sponsored executions.”

After the court hearing, the Nevada execution was put on hold indefinitely. 

In a handwritten statement distributed Tuesday, Moore said that he did not wish to delay his execution after spending 38 years on death row.

However, he urged people who are against the death penalty to turn their attention to the four individuals on death row in Nebraska who claim to be innocent: “How might you feel if your loved one were innocent and on death row or if you were the innocent on death row?” 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.