LINCOLN — Media witnesses to Nebraska’s first execution using lethal injection — and the state’s first execution in 21 years — said the process appeared to have gone smoothly and as planned.
The first of four lethal injection drugs was pumped into the left arm of double-murderer Carey Dean Moore at 10:24 a.m. Tuesday.
He was pronounced dead by a Lancaster County coroner 23 minutes later.
Moore was described by the four news media witnesses as “straight-faced” and “composed” as the death warrant was read to him just prior to the execution.
“The gravity of what was happening to him was clear on his face,” said one of the witnesses, Joe Duggan, a World-Herald reporter.
Before the drugs were administered and after he was strapped to the execution table, Moore mouthed the words “I love you” to family members, who were seated in a separate witness room from the media.
Prison officials performed a “consciousness check” on Moore after the first drug was administered. Then the three other drugs were injected, via an IV line that ran from an adjacent room.
Moore’s face became red and then purple, the media witnesses said, and at one point his abdomen heaved and his breathing became faster.
The witnesses said Moore’s facial expression did not change during the execution.
Photos: Scenes from around Carey Dean Moore's execution at Nebraska State Penitentiary
Scenes from in and around the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Tuesday, August 14, 2018 where Carey Dean Moore was the first person in Nebraska to be executed by lethal injection. Carey Dean Moore, 60, has served for 38 years on death row for the 1979 killings of Omaha cabdrivers Reuel Van Ness and Maynard Helgeland.
State Corrections Director Scott Frakes described the execution as being done “with professionalism, respect for the process and with dignity for all involved.”
One media witness, Brent Martin of the Nebraska Radio Network, said Tuesday’s execution inside the Nebraska State Penitentiary took longer than the 13 executions he had witnessed in Missouri. In those executions, it took about five minutes to complete the lethal injection process.
Martin said that probably was because Nebraska used four drugs to execute Moore, rather than the three-drug protocol used in Missouri. It was a new process in Nebraska, he added, after a two-decade gap between executions here.
“It had become routine (in Missouri),” Martin said. “They had a system. They knew how to do it.”
Another witness, Chip Matthews of News Channel Nebraska, expressed concern that midway through Tuesday’s execution, a curtain was closed, blocking witnesses’ view of Moore .
When the curtain was reopened, Moore’s lifeless body remained on the table. His face was described as darker purple, and mottled.
“We didn’t know what happened behind the curtain,” Matthews said. “I would have liked it to be totally transparent.”
Martin said that in Missouri, witnesses were allowed to watch the proceedings from start to finish.
Dawn-Renee Smith, a spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, said the curtains are closed after the last of the four lethal injection drugs are administered. There is a short wait, and then the corrections director calls for the coroner, Smith said. The curtain is reopened after the condemned inmate is declared dead.
Martin, a radio reporter, called the execution “history making for Nebraska,” and something he doubted would ever happen. Nebraska, he said, appeared to have an “academic” death penalty until Tuesday’s execution.
The other media witness to the execution was Grant Schulte of the Associated Press.
Frakes and Robert Madsen, the acting warden of the State Penitentiary, were witnesses in the execution chamber. Two unnamed staff members from the Corrections Department also were present, as were Moore’s brother, David, and his daughter Taylor. Pastor Bob Bryan and Gary Cross, a friend of Moore’s, were also witnesses.