The State of Missouri only has enough drugs to execute three more people, and a state lawmaker has asked the Governor to act so that the death penalty can continue to be carried out.
The current protocol for executions in Missouri, as established by the Department of Corrections, calls for the use of a lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol. The Missouri Society of Anethesiologists says propofol is one of the most commonly used anesthetics in the U.S. and if it is used for even one execution in the United States, the European Union might block export of that drug to this country. Approximately 85 percent of propofol used in the U.S. comes out of E.U. countries, and domestic manufacturers are not believed to be able to make up that shortfall.
Missouri is scheduled to carry out the execution of Allen Nicklasson on October 23 and of Joseph Franklin on November 20, both using propofol.
Columbia Senator and attorney general candidate Kurt Schaefer says as the use of propofol to carry out executions is being called more and more into question, Governor Jay Nixon must act. He has written a letter asking the Governor to propose a budget including money for the construction of a new gas chamber, or to propose a change to statute allowing for a third method of execution. Lethal gas and lethal injection are currently the only two forms of execution Missouri statute allows for.
The current gas chamber at the decommissioned Missouri State Penitentiary was last used for a gas execution in 1965 and Schaefer says it could not be used now, due to its condition and location in a populated area.
The Governor and the legislature both have a say in creating the budget for a coming fiscal year, but Schaefer believes for the money to build a new one to be added to the budget, the Governor would have to propose it.
“The Governor doesn’t allow … really for the last five years with relatively few exceptions … has not allowed anything to be added to the budget by the legislature that he did not have in his initial budget recommendation that he gave us in January of a given year.”
Schaefer says he doesn’t think it is likely a new method of execution will have to be explored, but says if Governor Nixon is not going to ensure that one of the two methods in statute will be viable, then Nixon must tell the legislature what he would propose to do to carry out executions.
Schafer says the state can not choose to not enforce its capital punishment statutes.
“It’s inappropriate to have a jury go through that, have law enforcement go through everything it takes to build a capital case, which is going to get a higher level of review from the courts, and then tell the victim’s family and the victim’s loved ones that is the punishment, and then basically at the end of that process say, ‘Well, sorry you all went through that … we’re not going to administer it now,’ even though the law says it must be administered.”
The request comes after Attorney General Chris Koster suggested that because of issues with the drug Missouri uses for lethal injections, Missouri might have to return to using a gas chamber. Schaefer says he, Koster and Nixon (who is a former attorney general) are likely on the same page on this issue.
“Obviously the 48 people on death row … most of them were put there by the current Governor during his 16 years as Attorney General. As I say in my letter, he really had been at the forefront of capital punishment issues, so I suspect that he does take it very seriously and I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
Schaefer is also the first Republican to formally announce his candidacy for Attorney General in 2016.