Nebraska AG sues lawmakers to stop death penalty questioning of prisons director

LINCOLN — Nebraska’s attorney general has sued members of the State Legislature in an attempt to block their questioning of the prisons director about the death penalty protocol.

Attorney General Doug Peterson alleges in the lawsuit filed Tuesday that lawmakers voted unlawfully to issue a subpoena to the director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services to appear at a May 8 hearing at the State Capitol. Members of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee planned to question Scott Frakes about the lethal injection protocol his department updated in 2017 to carry out executions.

The lawsuit names 16 state senators and the clerk of the Legislature as defendants. The senators are members of either the Executive Board of the Legislature or the Judiciary Committee.

State Sen. Laura Ebke, chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, said last week that lawmakers will take the unusual step of issuing a subpoena because Frakes refused to answer questions voluntarily. In a recent letter, Frakes declined a request to appear before the committee “on the advice of legal counsel, and because of pending litigation.”

Five lawsuits related to the death penalty are currently in state courts. In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska has filed a complaint with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, alleging that state officials violated federal regulations to obtain the lethal drugs.

Meanwhile, Peterson recently asked the Nebraska Supreme Court to set an execution date for one of the 11 men on death row. State officials are trying to carry out Nebraska’s first execution in 21 years.