death penalty

Updated 9 a.m. Tuesday with news of Supreme Court's action - The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear a challenge by Missouri death row inmates to the state’s execution protocol.

The high court on Monday denied a request from the inmate's attorneys to consider the case. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that in order to win their claims that Missouri's lethal injection cocktail amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, inmates had to show that a viable alternative was available.

The U.S. Supreme Court today upheld the use of midazolam as part of the execution protocol in Oklahoma. The same drug had been used — and challenged — in Missouri.  In the execution of Richard Strong earlier this month, midazolam was used as a sedative before pentobarbital was used to carry out the execution.

Eyes are on Missouri as the state's implementation of the death penalty enters national discussions. What has already shifted in approaches to challenging the death penalty, and what further developments can be expected now that celebrity Larry Flynt has been granted the right to ask for previously sealed documents from Missouri executions?  

Guests:

Updated, 4:27 p.m.

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt has the right to intervene in two cases challenging Missouri’s execution protocol.

Flynt had sought to unseal judicial records in the cases, but a federal judge found that Flynt’s “generalized interest” did not justify intervention.

In reversing that decision, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the judge applied the wrong legal standard.

 Opponents of the death penalty in Kansas are hoping to replace the option with life in prison without the possibility of parole. Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994, but has not yet executed anyone in last 20 years. Anti-death penalty advocates are renewing their push to change the law.

Updated at 12:17 a.m., Wed., Feb. 11 -- Walter Storey's execution was carried out at 12:01 a.m. by lethal injection, according to a brief statement from the Missouri Department of Corrections.  His time of death is listed as 12:10 a.m.

(Updated at 10:51 am, Thurs., Sept. 4 with further response from the Department of Corrections)

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Kansas City faith leaders are calling on Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to halt an execution scheduled for next week.

A dozen religious leaders met Tuesday to deliver a letter to Nixon's downtown Kansas City office asking for a meeting with the governor to discuss a moratorium on the death penalty in Missouri.

"Each time the state of Missouri executes, whether the person is guilty or innocent, I am made a murderer, just like any other, and my faith convicts me to say no," says retired United Church of Christ minister Jane Fisler Hoffman, the organizer of the event.

Wednesday's execution of Michael Taylor marked the state's fourth in as many months - a dramatic uptick from recent years.

The state put Taylor to death for abducting, raping and killing a 15-year-old girl in 1989. Gov. Jay Nixon called the crime "wanton" and "heinous" in a statement denying clemency and said the death penalty was the appropriate punishment.

Missouri inmate Michael Taylor is scheduled to be executed just after midnight on Wednesday. Pentobarbital from an unnamed compounding pharmacy will be used.

Taylor's attorneys are concerned that the drug may cause his client unnecessary suffering because the anonymous pharmacy cannot be checked for legitimacy and any previous violations. By law, compounding pharmacies that supply lethal injection formulas in Missouri are allowed to remain anonymous.

Don Ipock / Kansas City Repertory Theatre

A prisoner on death row, for a decade, prepares to die. But, then something goes wrong on the morning that's supposed to be his last - the lethal injection is not lethal. That's the premise of the production, When I Come to Die, at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre.

Missouri Has A New Execution Drug Supplier

Feb 20, 2014

Although the state's previous drug supplier says it will not supply for the next execution, Missouri says it's found another willing pharmacy.

On Monday, the Apothecary Shoppe in Oklahoma reached a settlement with an inmate who had sued the pharmacy. Although the terms were confidential, the pharmacy agreed to not sell to Missouri for its upcoming execution.

In a court filing Wednesday evening, the state said inmate Michael Taylor was trying to cut off the supply of the state's execution drug.

Missouri's recent executions have sparked controversy lately -- not just for the secrecy and the source of the execution drug but also for the state's speed in carrying them out.

The Department of Corrections has carried out three executions in as many months. In all those cases, the inmate still had appeals pending at the time the state executed him.

Despite the controversy over how Missouri has carried out its past three executions, a state House hearing on Monday revealed little that hasn't already been reported:

Will Missouri inmates on death row face death by firing squad someday? After a recent debacle in a Ohio execution and shortages of lethal injection drugs, legislators are considering alternative methods.

Host Brian Ellison talks to death penalty opponents. Later, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will discuss voter identification laws.   

Guests: 

Before November 2013, the state of Missouri had executed two inmates over the past six years. Then, near the end of the year, two inmates were executed within three weeks of each other, and both executions used a controversial new drug protocol.

Critics question the way the state is carrying out executions, including the way the state obtains its lethal drugs. With courts still considering critical legal issues as another execution date nears, will the Department of Corrections keep pressing ahead?

Lawyers representing death row inmates have filed a complaint with the Missouri Board of Pharmacy, citing St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon’s investigation from earlier this week.

Veronique LaCapra / St. Louis Public Radio

Two weeks ago, Gov. Jay Nixon instructed the Missouri Department of Corrections to come up with a new procedure for carrying out lethal injections.

On Tuesday, the department announced that it had chosen a new execution drug: pentobarbitol. But the state also made a change that will end up making it harder, if not impossible, to know where the drugs come from.

On Tuesday, the Missouri Department of Corrections announced that it had selected a new drug for upcoming executions: pentobarbital.

The change comes following criticism of the questionable methods by which Missouri obtained the drug it had previously planned to use, as well as concern that its use could harm hospitals throughout the U.S. The state had planned to use a common anesthetic named propofol, which has never been used to carry out an execution.

Veronique Lacapra / KWMU

On Friday, Gov. Jay Nixon postponed the execution of an inmate that was set for later this month. That execution was going to be carried out using propofol, a common anesthetic that has never been used in a lethal injection before. So why the change in plans?

Sam Howzit

In 1984, Kirk Bloodsworth was convicted of murder. He was released after 9 years in prison and spent years asserting his innocence until DNA evidence confirmed his story.

A daily digest of headlines from KCUR.

  • High Speed Health Care
  • Lawmaker Seeks To End Death Penalty in Missouri