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Nebraska Court Declares Electric Chair Legal, Despite Inmate Appeal

The state Supreme Court on Friday rejected an inmate's appeal that the electric chair amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, leaving Nebraska as still the only state with electrocution as its sole means of execution.

No American court has ever ruled that electrocution amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. But as legal challenges were mounted against its use, others states adopted alternative methods of execution, primarily lethal injection.

"Nebraska ... now is alone in the United States, actually in the whole world, in still requiring electrocution," Carey Dean Moore's lawyer, Alan Peterson, argued to the court. "Nebraska is the last holdout for this universally rejected and condemned sole means of capital punishment."

In its ruling, the court noted that Moore was previously rejected in his bid to have the electric chair deemed cruel and unusual punishment. The court said it "need not entertain a second or successive motions for similar relief on behalf of the same prisoner."

Under state law, Moore also had to persuade justices to throw out his death sentence in order to win his appeal. He was sentenced to death for the 1979 murders of two Omaha cab drivers.

Peterson declined to comment after the ruling.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, nine states allow some or all condemned inmates to choose between lethal injection and another execution method. Ten states have the electric chair but only Nebraska uses it exclusively.

Some inmates choose execution of lethal injection, which has recently spurred several legal challenges over whether the drugs used actually prevent pain. Last week in Virginia, Brandon Hedrick, 27, chose to become the first person in the U.S. to die in the electric chair in more than two years.

Moore's appeal was based on a change in execution protocol made by the state in 2004. Prison officials used one continuous jolt of electricity for 15 seconds instead of four separate jolts after a judge said the practice appeared to cause undue suffering.

Three people have been put to death in Nebraska since executions were resumed in 1994.