A conversation with Matt Maly for Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

Matt Maly, Operations Coordinator for Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, took time out to visit with the Nebraska City News-Press on Friday, Aug. 24, to discuss the Carey Dean Moore case and the future of capital punishment. The feature was to be a pod cast, but, due to poor audio quality, is being released as a transcript.

On Carey Dean Moore’s execution:
I think it was a terrible thing for our state. We gave up a whole lot to get that execution. He was on death row for 38 years and so that means we were wasting millions of tax payer dollars and put the victims’ families through almost four decades of pain and suffering and waiting. We totally abandoned our commitment to transparency. This execution was done with secret drugs and we still don’t know exactly what happened which I think is contrary to our values.

On the drug protocol:
We knew when the death penalty was reinstated in 2016 that were was no sources to the standard old three-drug cocktail and so the only way that there would be any chance of resuming executions was to do it by experimentation with some secret source which is what they did, which was really alarming to anybody who believes in transparency and anybody who believes in limited government. Even if you support capital punishment in theory this isn’t anything to mess around with. This is a really serious process for the state to under take. There is no room for secrecy or experimentation and there is certainly no room for error. They found something from who knows where that they thought might work and it was successful in killing him but they closed the curtain for 14 minutes during the execution so we still don’t know exactly what happened and there is a chance we will never know.

What’s the alternative to capital punishment?
The alternative is clear and simple. It’s life in prison without the possibility of parole. If Carey Dean Moore was sentenced to life 38 years ago, he would have been hauled out of the court room and began serving his sentence immediately and anonymously. We would have locked him up, thrown away the key  and forgot about him and we wouldn’t be having this conversation today. Instead, we dragged out the process. We told the victims seven times that the execution was coming and the first six times we said, “Oops, not today.” And we’ve put this killer’s face on the front page of the paper countless times all throughout the state. I think the much better thing to do is to save money, just lock him up , throw away the key and forget about him.

On the issues of life term inmates gaining freedom or life sentenced persons attempting to kill corrections officers or other inmates because they fear no higher penalty.
First of all, the idea that someone could get a life sentence and then somehow get out is absolutely incorrect. The attorney general said so himself. The only way you can come before a parole board in Nebraska, much less get parole is to serve half of your sentence, so half of your term in years. If you have an 80 year sentence, then once you’ve served 40, you are eligible for a parole board hearing. if you are sentenced to life, that can’t be cut in half. You can’t serve half of a life sentence so there is no way that you could get parole. For the state correctional officers, I think  we all recognize that Nebraska’s Department of Corrections is in a crisis. There are all kinds of problems in that department. It needs a whole heck of a lot of help in a whole lot of different ways with over crowding, mandatory overtime and staffing issues. To think that executions are going to help correctional officers is just crazy. The death penalty costs tax payers $14.6 million, more than life without parole, every single year. I think it would be great if we could take those resources and invest them back into the Department of Corrections in more helpful ways  like more training for officers and better pay. Let’s do things, like more programming in our prisons, that are going to make prisons safer rather than wasting it on the execution program that still doesn’t work.

Is the death penalty on its way out?
Absolutely. That’s the direction we’ve been moving for the last 10 to 15 years, not only in Nebraska but across the nation. Drug companies are becoming more vocal that they don’t want their products used in executions. It’s getting harder and harder to find sources for the drugs. And more states are moving toward repealing the death penalty for a number of reasons. Largely, it’s the conservative sides of legislatures that are joining the cause and seeing it as a wasteful, ineffective big government program. So it’s definitely on its way out. We are seeing death sentences and executions be less each year. We did this execution after 21 years without one.
Now these drugs have expired and we have no source for any of these four again. It was the first in 21 years and I belive the last execution in the state of Nebraska and that’s a good thing. I think eventually, we are going to move on, repeal this and then be done once and for all.

On other methods of execution:
It’s certainly not going to be that we are going to reinstate the electric chair in Nebraska. That has been ruled cruel and unusual punishment by our state supreme court. Lethal injection has become the standard throughout the country.There has been a little bit of talk from other states trying to experiment with the gas chamber and other methods like that. It’s very unlikely just because the state courts throughout the country and federal courts. Even if you think that’s humane, you still have to abide by the law. They just have their hands tied in certain ways by the legislatures and by court precedent. Beyond that, I think the bigger issue is that this is really a bigger thing than the means of execution, regardless of how it comes: firing squad, hanging, lethal injection, electrocution, whatever. The big problems with this system, as a government program, which is what it is.. is that it costs too much, it wastes millions of dollars in tax payer money, it prolongs the pain and suffering the victim’s families and forces them to relive the details of their loved one’s murder for decades and decades and it risks executing an innocent person, which is particularly why the Catholic Church and other faith traditions are opposed to it. The government doesn’t do anything with perfect accuracy. All these problems are the weightier part of the issue and are germain no matter what the method of execution happens to be.