Closing of Curtains During Execution Raises Questions

Observers' view was blocked for 14 minutes
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2018 4:45 PM CDT
Closing of Curtains During Execution Raises Questions
Carey Dean Moore   (Nebraska Department of Correctional Services via AP, File)

The Aug. 14 execution of Carey Dean Moore in Nebraska garnered national attention because authorities used a heretofore untested cocktail of four drugs to end the life of the convicted killer. But now, another aspect of the execution is attracting attention: the fact that authorities at Nebraska State Penitentiary closed curtains for some 14 minutes, preventing observers from seeing the execution from start to finish. According to observers, about 15 minutes after authorities began to administer the drugs to Moore via IV, Corrections Director Scott Frakes—in the same room as Moore—spoke into his radio and the curtains closed the Lincoln Journal Star reports. Some say closing the curtains "hindered transparency" because observers—and, by proxy, other states looking for new execution methods—were not able to see the full effect of the drug combination.

"Speculation cannot help but be rife, state Sen. Ernie Chambers, a death penalty opponent, wrote to Frakes days after the arrest, saying that witness reports of the events before the curtains closed "only tantalized." Those reports include accounts of Moore's face turning red, and then purple, the Omaha World-Herald reports, as well as Moore taking rapid, heaving breaths and coughing, per the Journal Star. However, a corrections spokeswoman says the curtain closing wasn't unplanned, telling the Journal Star that it "is consistent with past practice. Frakes says the execution was performed with "respect for the process and dignity for all involved," per the World-Herald. (Read more death penalty stories.)

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