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Pope's call not swaying Nebraska on inmate's execution

By
Ed Adamczyk

Aug. 3 (UPI) -- Three Catholic bishops in Nebraska have called for a halt to a scheduled execution after Pope Francis said the Catholic Church is against capital punishment.

Pope Francis announced the change Thursday, which will be reflected in official church teachings known as the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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The pope's announcement prompted a joint statement by Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln and Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt of Grand Island urging a halt to Nebraska's planned execution of Carey Dean Moore Aug. 14.

"We call on all people of good will to contact Nebraska state officials to stop the [execution]," the statement read. "Simply put, the death penalty is no longer needed or morally justified in Nebraska."

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The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Moore, who's been on death row 38 years, can be put to death. It would be the state's first execution in more than 20 years.

Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican and Catholic, personally financed a successful referendum in 2015 to restore capital punishment in the state after legislators voted to ban it. He said Thursday he won't block the execution.

"While I respect the pope's perspective, capital punishment remains the will of the people and the law of the State of Nebraska," Ricketts said. "It is an important tool to protect our corrections officers and public safety. The state continues to carry out the sentences ordered by the court."

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Nebraska used the electric chair in its last execution in 1997. Moore will be the state's first to die by lethal injection. One of the drugs set for the process is fentanyl, and Nebraska would be the first state in the nation to use it to kill an inmate.

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer prohibits use of its products in executions and has demanded corrections officials in all states return their drugs. Nebraska's have refused.

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the state over the issue and a judge ordered officials to reveal the sources of the drugs, but Nebraska has not complied. It is appealing the ruling.

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"We've been unable to see those critical documents because it's on appeal," said Danielle Conrad, executive director of ACLU of Nebraska. "It is incredibly troubling because the appeal won't be heard for some time. This won't be resolved before the execution date."

The Death Penalty Information Center says 20 executions are set for the rest of the year -- nine in Texas alone. Of those, eight have been rescheduled, commuted or postponed. Fifteen are on the list for 2019 and 14 for 2020.

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