Lincoln (US), Feb 10 (AP) Nebraska officials have started a new search for lethal injection drugs and are backing a proposal that would allow them to conceal a supplier’s identity after voters reinstated capital punishment last year.

Corrections Director Scott Frakes said yesterday he has already “had some conversations” with potential suppliers but has not yet made any purchases. His comments came outside of a Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on a proposed shield law that would keep secret the identity of any lethal injection drug suppliers.

“I’ve just begun the process to see if I can obtain the substances needed to carry out the sentences,” Frakes said after testifying in support of the bill.

Governor Pete Ricketts approved a new lethal injection protocol last month that gives the Department of Correctional Services greater flexibility to choose which drugs are used in executions. An early draft of the protocol included a secrecy provision, but Frakes said department officials removed it after deciding they first needed legislative approval.

Senator John Kuehn of Heartwell said he introduced the measure to protect would-be suppliers from threats and public harassment from death penalty opponents.

Commonly used lethal injection drugs have become scarce because many North American and European pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell drugs for use in executions.

Voters reinstated Nebraska’s death penalty in November after state lawmakers repealed it in 2015. The measure was placed on the ballot through a petition drive with substantial financial support from Ricketts, a Republican who supports capital punishment.

Kuehn, a veterinarian, said the scarcity of death penalty drugs has deprived the public of substances with legitimate medical uses. He said voters “sent a clear message to Nebraska lawmakers” that they expect a workable solution.

Of the 31 states with the death penalty, 15 have enacted similar shield laws.

Lincoln attorney Bob Evnen, a former member of Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, said lawmakers should “stop listening to the obstructionists and instead heed the wishes of the overwhelming majority of this state.”

“Nebraskans have spoken and they expect the Legislature to act now,” he said.

Opponents pointed to the department’s decision to spend USD 54,000 in 2015 on lethal injection drugs from Chris Harris, a broker in India with no pharmaceutical background who was unable to deliver the drugs because the federal government blocked the shipment. (AP)

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.