Monday, 21 April 2014 11:47
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Appeals that seek to spare the life of a Missouri man facing execution this week focus on concerns about the lethal injection drug.
William Rousan is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. He was sentenced to death for killing 62-year-old Grace Lewis in 1993. He was sentenced to life in prison for killing her 67-year-old husband.
The killings were part of a plot by Rousan, his son and his brother, to steal cattle from the Lewis farm near Bonne Terre.
Rousan's son, Brent, was 16 at the time of the killings. He is serving life without parole. Rousan's brother, Robert, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and served 15 years in prison.
An appeal in federal court questions Missouri's secretive process of purchasing execution drugs from an unnamed compounding pharmacy.
Thursday, 10 April 2014 10:27
ST. LOUIS (AP) - A man convicted of one killing and suspected in two others may never face the death penalty due to sentencing delays caused in part by a prosecutor's stroke and the killer's own failing health.
Gregory Bowman is imprisoned in Missouri for strangling a teenager in St. Louis County in 1977. He was also convicted of killing a 14-year-old girl and a 21-year-old woman in Belleville, Ill., in 1978, but the convictions were overturned. He was never retried.
The Missouri Supreme Court in 2011 upheld Bowman's Missouri conviction but ordered re-sentencing.
The hearing is now delayed until April 2015. Colleen Blake, the clerk for St. Louis County Circuit Judge David Vincent, says the prosecutor handling the case had a stroke in January, and Bowman has a potentially fatal kidney ailment.
Wednesday, 26 March 2014 00:25
BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) - A man convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing a 17 year old St. Charles girl has been executed in Missouri, marking the state's fifth execution in as many months.
Jeffrey Ferguson was lethally injected just after midnight Wednesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre.
The 59 year old was accused of kidnapping Kelli Hall as she finished her shift at a Mobil gas station in St. Charles on Feb. 9, 1989.
Her frozen body was found 13 days later on a St. Louis County farm.
Ferguson had expressed remorse for the crime. Supporters said he'd found religion, counseled other inmates and helped start a prison hospice program.
But St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said Ferguson's good deeds in prison didn't make up for the senseless killing of an innocent teenager.
AP's earlier story is below:
The U.S. Supreme Court refused late Tuesday to stop the impending execution of a Missouri man convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing a 17 year old girl in 1989.
The high court released its rulings barely an hour before 59 year old Jeffrey Ferguson was scheduled for lethal injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre.
Ferguson's attorneys were challenging, among other things, the state's refusal to disclose where it gets its execution drugs. Their appeals also were denied by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the governor denied a clemency request.
The execution will mark the state's fifth execution since November.
Ferguson was accused of kidnapping Kelli Hall shortly before her shift ended at a Mobil gas station in St. Charles on Feb. 9, 1989. Her frozen body was found 13 days later on a St. Louis County farm.
"Kelli Hall was only 17 when she was abducted from her workplace, raped and brutally murdered," Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon said in a statement Tuesday evening. "Her life, so full of promise, was brutally taken from her and her family."
"The jury that convicted Jeffrey Ferguson of Kelli's murder found that the aggravating circumstances for this crime warranted the death penalty," he said in denying the clemency request. "My decision today upholds that appropriate sentence. "
Missouri switched to a one-drug execution method late last year. The state obtains the drug, pentobarbital, from a compounding pharmacy it refuses to name.
Ferguson's attorney, Jennifer Herndon, had asked the 8th Circuit to stay the execution, arguing that the state's secretive process prohibited the public from knowing exactly how the drug was made and whether it could cause pain and suffering for the inmate.
The drug was used in the state's four previous executions, and the inmates showed no outward signs of distress during the execution process.
A similar request for a stay, arguing that Ferguson wasn't given timely notice of the method being used for his execution, was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ferguson's supporters argue that he has turned his life around behind bars and has been a model prisoner who works with other inmates, helped start a hospice program and performed other good deeds.
Herndon said Ferguson was an alcoholic who blacked out on the night of the murder, but that he became devoutly religious once sent to death row.
Ferguson and a friend, Kenneth Ousley, were at a Shell service station in St. Charles on the night of the murder.
Hall, who worked at the Mobil station across the street, was nearing the end of her eight-hour work shift when she went outside to check the levels of four fuel tanks.
A witness said Ferguson's Chevrolet Blazer pulled up. The witness saw a man standing close to Hall with a hand in his pocket. Ferguson was carrying a pistol.
About a half-hour later, a co-worker went looking for Hall. When they found out she was not home and her purse was still at the station, they contacted police. Later, some of her clothing was found by a city worker in the St. Louis County town of Chesterfield.
On Feb. 22, Warren Stemme was approaching a machine shed on his farm in Maryland Heights, another St. Louis suburb, when he found Hall's frozen body, naked except for socks. She had been strangled.
An acquaintance suspicious about Ferguson led police to him, and he was convicted of first-degree murder. Ousley pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1993; he is serving a life term but is eligible for parole.
Tuesday, 25 March 2014 14:37
ST. LOUIS (AP) - A new research program at Saint Louis University's law school will analyze administration of the death penalty in Missouri over the past 25 years.
Law students, professors and researchers with the Missouri Capital-Sentencing Research Program will review the 72 executions carried out by the state since 1989 as well as the death sentences handed down to 42 additional inmates. That includes Jeffrey Ferguson, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for raping and killing a 17-year-old girl a quarter-century ago in suburban St. Louis.
The state Supreme Court has kept detailed trial court reports from each judge presiding over capital cases since Missouri reinstated the death penalty in 1977. Saint Louis University School of Law Dean Michael Wolff is the court's former chief justice.
Friday, 14 March 2014 14:40
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Missouri is on pace for a record number of executions in 2014, with two more inmates on the verge of getting their execution dates.
The Missouri Supreme Court on Thursday issued show cause orders in the cases of Leon Taylor and Michael Worthington. The orders give attorneys for the two men until April 14 to show why an execution date should not be set.
Missouri executed two men late last year and has already put to death two other convicted killers in the first two months of 2014 -- Herbert Smulls in January and Michael Taylor in February.
Jeffrey Ferguson is scheduled to die March 26 for abducting and killing a teenager in St. Charles County in 1989. In addition to Taylor and Worthington, the Supreme Court has issued show cause orders for five other death row inmates, meaning their execution dates could be set soon.
Missouri’s highest number of executions in a year was nine in 1999. The state executed eight men in 1938 and seven in 2001.
Tuesday, 25 February 2014 11:43
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Missouri corrections officials say they will use a lethal drug provided by a new supplier in the state's fourth execution in four months.
Convicted killer Michael Taylor is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Several court appeals have been filed seeking to spare his life, and Gov. Jay Nixon is weighing a clemency request.
Taylor's attorneys are questioning Missouri's use of the new, unnamed compounding pharmacy to provide the pentobarbital for his execution. They also allege that the state executes men before appeals are complete, and say Taylor's trial attorney was ineffective.
Taylor and Roderick Nunley were convicted of abducting 15-year-old Ann Harrison as she waited for a Kansas City school bus in 1989, then raping and killing her. Nunley is also on death row.
Thursday, 13 February 2014 00:23
A federal judge agreed late Wednesday to temporarily block an Oklahoma pharmacy from providing an execution drug to the Missouri Department of Corrections for use in an upcoming lethal injection.
The temporary restraining order was issued after a federal lawsuit was filed in Tulsa by Missouri death row inmate Michael Taylor. His attorneys said the department contracts with The Apothecary Shoppe in Tulsa to provide compounded pentobarbital, the drug set to be used in Taylor's execution on Feb. 26.
The lawsuit argued that several recent executions involving the drug indicate it would likely cause Taylor "severe, unnecessary, lingering and ultimately inhumane pain."
In his order Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Terence Kern wrote that Taylor's attorneys submitted "facts demonstrating that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to plaintiff before defendant can be heard in opposition."
The judge set a hearing for Tuesday and ordered the pharmacy to submit a response to the injunction by Friday. He said the order would remain in effect at least until the hearing.
But it wasn't immediately clear if the execution would be delayed because of the ruling. The state has not revealed the name of the compounding pharmacy supplying the drug, and The Apothecary Shoppe previously declined to confirm or deny that it was the source of a drug used in an earlier Missouri execution.
A pharmacy spokeswoman did not return telephone calls seeking comment late Wednesday. Phone and email messages were also left with the Missouri Department of Corrections and the Missouri Attorney General's Office.
Taylor, 47, pleaded guilty in the 1989 abduction, rape and stabbing death of a 15-year-old Kansas City girl.
One of Taylor's attorneys, Matthew Hellman of the Washington, D.C., law firm Jenner & Block, said the lawsuit focuses attention on the drug used in Missouri's lethal injections and the laws regarding compounding.
"We're gratified the court entered the order," Hellman said after the Wednesday order. "This lawsuit is about an unacceptable option in carrying out the death penalty and this is why we're seeking to stop The Apothecary Shoppe from providing this unlawful drug."
Missouri corrections officials turned to The Apothecary Shoppe to supply compounded pentobarbital after manufacturers of the drug refused to provide it for lethal injections, according to the lawsuit.
In January 2012, a Danish company that had produced pentobarbital under the trade name Nembutal sold the exclusive rights to the drug to an American company, Akorn Inc., on the condition that Akorn not sell the drug for use in executions.
"Those manufacturers do not want medication to be used for executions," Hellman said.
Taylor's lawsuit questions whether the pharmacy can legally produce and deliver compounded pentobarbital. It says the pharmacy is not registered as a drug manufacturer with the Food & Drug Administration and alleges it violates federal law each time it delivers the drug across state lines to Missouri corrections officials.
Along with asking for a temporary restraining order, the lawsuit seeks an injunction barring the pharmacy from delivering "this unidentified, unregulated, untested and unsafe pharmaceutical product." Hellman declined to say whether The Apothecary Shoppe also sells compounded pentobarbital to states other than Missouri.
Several recent executions that involved compounded pentobarbital indicate use of the drug will subject Taylor to "inhumane pain," the lawsuit says.
One such execution was that of Oklahoma death row inmate Michael Lee Wilson, 38. Within 20 seconds of receiving the lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary on Jan. 9 Wilson said: "I feel my whole body burning." The lawsuit alleges the statement describes "a sensation consistent with receipt of contaminated pentobarbital."
The lawsuit also sites an Oct. 15, 2012, execution in which South Dakota death row inmate Eric Robert, 50, cleared his throat, gasped for air and then snored after receiving the lethal injection. His skin turned a purplish hue and his heart continued to beat for 10 minutes after he stopped breathing. It took 20 minutes for authorities to finally declare Robert dead.
"These events are consistent with receipt of a contaminated or sub-potent compounded drug," the lawsuit says.
Use of the same drug in Taylor's execution could result in a similar reaction, Hellman said.
"It is extremely disturbing," he said.
On Monday, Missouri Corrections Department Director George Lombardi told a legislative panel that the agency pays for the drug to be independently tested to make sure it works and is sterile. He also said the agency had found no substantial issues in a background check of its current supplier.
Lombardi did not release the name of the pharmacy that provides the drug, saying Missouri could not carry out lethal injections if that information were released. He said the state pays $8,000 in cash to the pharmacy for the drug.
Thursday, 30 January 2014 15:47
ST. LOUIS (AP) - By the time the U.S. Supreme Court refused a last-minute stay of execution for Herbert Smulls, the Missouri inmate was already dead. His attorneys say it was the third straight time a Missouri inmate has been executed with an appeal pending.
Late Wednesday, attorneys for Smulls made one last appeal to the Supreme Court. It had already ruled hours earlier that the execution could proceed.
Smulls' attorney Joseph Luby says the stay was denied at 10:24 p.m., four minutes after Smulls was pronounced dead.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster says in a statement that the Supreme Court has ruled that pending litigation is not sufficient to stop an execution. He says the state directly asked the high court if the execution should be stayed, and was told no.
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 17:08
Convicted killer Herbert Smulls is dead. The Missouri man was executed Wednesday night at the state prison in Bonne Terre. He was pronounced dead at 10:20 p.m.
The U.S. Supreme Court had granted a temporary stay late Tuesday, which had halted Smull's scheduled midnight execution. Smulls' attorneys had filed several appeals, mostly challenging the state's refusal to disclose the name of the compounding pharmacy that supplies its execution drug. The high court reviewed his case and eventually revoked the last remaining stay late Wednesday evening.
Smulls made no final statement, verbally or in writing.
The 56 year old had been sentenced to death for killing Stephen Honickman and badly injuring his wife during a 1991 robbery at the couple's St. Louis County jewelry store.
He was the third person in as many months Missouri has executed by lethal injection.
Tuesday, 28 January 2014 13:48
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - As Missouri prepares to execute its third inmate in three months, a state senator wants to change the state's execution process.
Senate Democratic Leader Jolie Justus introduced legislation Tuesday that would create an 11-member commission responsible for setting the state's execution procedure. She says ongoing lawsuits and secrecy about the state's current lethal injection method should drive a change in protocol.
Missouri had used a three-drug cocktail for executions, but it threw out the process after it could no longer obtain the drugs. The state ultimately switched to a form of pentobarbital made by a compounding pharmacy, though it refuses to reveal its origins.
Missouri is scheduled to execute Herbert Smullsat 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Smulls was convicted of killing a St. Louis County jeweler in 1991.