A bill to ensure more transparency in the death penalty won first-round approval from Nebraska lawmakers Thursday after prison officials blocked the view of public witnesses while carrying out an execution in 2018. Lawmakers gave the measure first-round approval on a 33-7 vote. The bill would bar the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services from obscuring the view of witnesses during an execution. It would also require at least two state legislators to serve as witnesses. State law already requires witnesses from media outlets to be present. Relatives of condemned inmates and their victims are allowed to view the execution as well.
Prison officials faced criticism in August 2018 after they pulled the curtains over the media’s viewing window for 14 minutes near the end of inmate Carey Dean Moore’s execution. Nebraska’s corrections director testified before a grand jury that the curtain was drawn “out of respect” for Moore, who was unconscious at the time, and to allow a coroner to determine whether Moore was dead. National authorities on the death penalty criticized the decision, saying it defeated the purpose of having independent witnesses to ensure the process was carried out correctly. The bill requires two more votes before it goes to Gov. Pete Ricketts.