Nebraska is the first state in the US to use opioid fentanyl in an execution.

Carey Dean Moore is the first execution in nearly twenty years and the first inmate to be lethally injected in Nebraska. The last execution was by electric chair in 1997.

The 60-year-old man was pronounced dead at 10:47 am local time.

A Nebraska court sentenced Moore to death in 1979 for killing two cab drivers in Omaha.

There were no reported complications during the execution process according to witnesses.

Three years prior to Tuesday’s execution, the Midwest state abolished capital punishment. The following year, it was reinstated through a citizen ballot drive under Republican Governor Pete Ricketts.

The Cocktail

Fentanyl is at the center of the current American opioid epidemic. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 115 people in the US overdose on the drug each day.

Moore was killed with an initial IV dose of diazepam or Valium to render the inmate unconscious. Then, fentanyl is introduced, which sedates the inmate. Cisatracurium besylate is then used to paralyze and halt breathing. Finally, potassium chloride stops the heart.

Prison officials sent saline through the IV following each injection in Moore’s execution to clean out extra residue and verify that each drug has entered his system.

Is This The Future?

Due to the difficulty to get drugs, it is unclear if other executions will mimic Moore’s case.

Pharmaceutical companies have blocked drugs being used for the death sentence in recent years.

Earlier this year Oklahoma announced that nitrogen gas will be utilized in its executions.

“We can no longer sit on the sidelines and wait to find drugs,” said Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter.

Similarly, Mississippi and Alabama have passed legislation that authorizes the use of nitrogen gas in executions if lethal injection drugs are not available.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 1305 out of the 1481 executions in the US have been carried out by lethal injections since 1976.

Capital punishment is legal in 31 states.


Moore’s execution was delayed seven times by the Nebraska Supreme Court since he was convicted.

Issues arose when questions were raised over whether the lethal injection drugs were possessed legally.

Last week the German drug company Fresenius Kabi filed a lawsuit claiming that Nebraska acquired the company’s drugs illegally. According to the drugmaker, its reputation and business relationships were going to be harmed if the execution assumed.

State attorneys assert that carrying out lawful executions is a top priority.

A federal appeals court upheld that ruling Monday, and Fresenius Kabi decided not to take the issue to the US Supreme Court.

To learn more about the opioid crisis click here. 


Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.