true crime

The curious story of the 'missing 14 minutes' during a convicted killer's execution.

At 10.47am on August 14, Carey Dean Moore was pronounced dead.

The convicted killer was executed in the Nebraska State Penitentiary’s death chamber, with a new cocktail of lethal drugs.

The 60-year-old had been on death row since 1979, after he was convicted of murdering two taxi drivers when he was just 21 years old.

Moore had been due for execution six times in the past, but each time the execution had been halted at the eleventh hour.

This time there was no last minute reprieve.

Moore’s was the first execution in Nebraska in two decades and it will probably go down in history as the most controversial. And it will always be defined by its “missing 14 minutes”.

On the morning of his execution, Moore was strapped to the death gurney. He was then given a fatal four-drug cocktail, which for the first time, included opioid fentanyl.

At 10.24am Moore was administered 37cc of diazepam (Valium), to slow cognition and voluntary muscle movement.

Then, at 10.30am, he was given 46cc of the powerful opioid fentanyl.

According to witnesses, when Moore was given the fentanyl, he began to gasp for air and cough.

At 10.31am the convicted killer’s chest stopped moving and he went still.

At 10.32am he was given 15cc of the paralytic cisatracurium besylate.

And at 10.33am he was administered 120cc of potassium chloride, the drug that was meant to stop his heart.

Witnesses said Moore’s face and hands gradually turned red and then his face turned purple.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that Moore’s eyes then slightly opened and Corrections Department Director Scott Frakes, who was in the room at the time, said something into his radio.


According to CBS News, a prison warden then lowered a curtain over the media’s viewing window at 10.39am.

Moore was pronounced dead at 10.47am.

The curtain was raised again at 10.53am and remained open for 40 seconds.

No one knows exactly what happened in the death chamber during the 14 minutes that the curtain was closed.

CBS News reports that Nebraska Department of Correctional Services Chief of Staff, Dawn-Renee Smith, said the curtain was lowered after the execution team notified Department Director Scott Frakes that the last drug had been injected.


According to Smith, Frakes and Acting Warden Robert Madsen then waited for five minutes to ensure the drugs had taken effect before summoning the county coroner.

They then pronounced Moore dead and briefly opened the curtain.

However, questions have been raised about whether more went on behind the curtain, as it’s normal practice to leave the curtain open for the entire duration of the execution.

Death penalty opponent Sen. Ernie Chambers sent a letter to Frakes in the days following the execution warning there would be a lot of speculation around the missing 14 minutes.

“Speculation cannot help but be rife,” Chambers said in the letter. “What was reported by witnesses only tantalized and served to stoke the fire of speculation.”

“[Those minutes are] going to assume as much significance and generate as much speculation as has the problematic 18.5 missing minutes from the White House secret tapes,” he added, referring to the tapes of a conversation between Richard Nixon and Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman regarding the Watergate break in.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the national Death Penalty Information Center, said Nebraska’s lack of transparency would lead to more questions.

“Nobody drops the curtain so that you cannot see the moments when the prisoner dies,” he said. “That’s why you have witnesses, so they can see and report what happens.”

An autopsy will be completed and there will be a grand jury proceeding into Moore’s death.

The inmate, who spent 38 years on death row, will mostly be remembered for those “missing 14 minutes”.