November 26, 2014

Bill proposes moratorium on, study of state executions

Some state lawmakers want executions in Missouri put on hold until questions are answered about how they are being carried out.

Representative John Rizzo (courtesy, Missouri House Communications)

Representative John Rizzo (courtesy, Missouri House Communications)

Representative John Rizzo (D-Kansas City) has proposed that an 11-member commission be appointed to study those same issues, and he wants executions halted through the end of this year or until that commission’s work is complete, whichever comes first.

“I want them to look into some of the pharmaceuticals that are being used … how they’re being acquired. I’d like for them to look into the most recent execution of a person that in my opinion was still in the (legal) process but then was executed.”

The issues Rizzo cites¬†are the same ones that will be looked into by the House Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability when it meets Tuesday. It will ask how the Corrections Department determines whether a condemned man has exhausted all of his constitutional appeals. Judge Kermit Bye, in a dissenting opinion, wrote that Missouri executed Allan Nicklasson December 11, “before the federal courts had a final say on whether doing so violated the federal Constitution.”

See our earlier story on the House Oversight Committee

It will also follow-up on the report that the Department of Corrections obtained the pentobarbital used to execute Joseph Paul Franklin in November from a compounding pharmacy in Oklahoma that is not licensed in Missouri, and whether that would be a violation of state law.

Rizzo says his bill isn’t about being for or against the death penalty.

“I think it’s an opinion of … are there things that are going on that circumvent the law?”

Rizzo proposes the panel be made up of a lawmaker from each party from each chamber, a county prosecutor, a capital defense attorney, the state public defender and the Attorney General or their representatives, two treating physicians and a pharmacist.

The bill was filed Tuesday afternoon.  It would have to move quickly through the legislature to impose a moratorium before the next execution that is scheduled in Missouri, that of Herbert Smulls on January 29.