Nebraska Attorney General Seeks Execution Date for Cult Leader

The Nebraska attorney general's office asked the state Supreme Court Thursday to schedule an execution date for former cult leader Michael Ryan, who was condemned for the torture and slaying of a man in 1985 at Ryan's compound near Rulo.

The request followed an announcement earlier in the day by the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services that it has obtained a new supply of one of three drugs needed to carry out executions by lethal injection.

Ryan's execution would be the first in Nebraska since 1997 and its first by lethal injection. The state had previously executed prisoners using the electric chair, but the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that it was cruel and unusual punishment.

Lawmakers voted in 2009 to replace the electric chair with lethal injection but earlier this year, the scheduled execution of another inmate, Carey Dean Moore, was put on hold following questions whether the state's supply of sodium thiopental, which was obtained from an India-based drug company, was purchased legally. Moore was sentenced to death for the 1979 slaying of two cabbies in Omaha.

The Nebraska Supreme Court issued a stay while Moore and his attorney challenged the state's purchase of sodium thiopental from the Indian company Kayem Pharmaceutical Pvt. Ltd. The company no longer sells sodium thiopental because of its use in executions.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency had been investigating whether several states properly registered with federal regulators before importing the sedative, which is no longer made in the United States and is in scarce supply elsewhere. Stockpiles of the drug were seized from several states, including Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee. The DEA declined to say whether Nebraska's supply was under investigation.

On Thursday, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services announced it had received a new supply of sodium thiopental from a Swiss pharmaceutical company and that the state can resume executions.

"With the receipt of this chemical, NDCS stands ready to fulfill its statutory obligation with regard to capital punishment," Director Robert Houston said in a statement.

The announcement also said the department became licensed by the DEA to import the sedative.

In its request to the state Supreme Court, the Nebraska attorney general's office said no stays of execution have been issued by any federal court and that Ryan has no current litigation pending in federal courts.

"The state of Nebraska is presently prepared to conduct a constitutional execution and requests this court to order the enforcement of Ryan's sentence of death," the attorney general's office wrote in its request to the court.

Ryan was sentenced to die for the beating and slaying of James Thimm at Ryan's compound near Rulo, a town of about 200 people in the southeast corner of Nebraska.

Over three days, Thimm was beaten, sexually abused, shot, stomped and partially skinned while he was still alive. His fingertips had been shot off on one hand.

Ryan also was convicted in the beating death of a 5-year-old son of a cult member.

Corrections department spokeswoman Dawn-Renee Smith said there are currently 11 inmates on death row in Nebraska.