July 28, 2014

Convicted killer compares Gov. Nixon, Missouri to Hitler, Mengele, Auschwitz (AUDIO)

43-year-old Michael Shane Worthington is scheduled to be executed early the morning of August 6 for the 1995 murder of his neighbor, Melinda Griffin. Griffin was found raped and strangled in her Lake St. Louis condo.

Michael Shane Worthington (Courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Michael Shane Worthington (Courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Worthington, like other convicted men, their attorneys, and death penalty critics, say Missouri’s execution protocol is wrong for keeping secret details about procedures and drugs used, and for using compounding pharmacies that they claim could produce faulty drugs.

Such critics say compounding pharmacies have a history of producing drugs that are too potent or too weak, and could cause an inmate to suffer, which would violate the Constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Worthington has strong words for Governor Jay Nixon (D) and the state.

AUDIO:  (21 seconds)  “Basically he’s no different than a Joseph Mengele and Adolph Hitler, you know what I mean? This place is a baby Auschwitz,” Worthington tells Missourinet. “They’re just marching us through there and experimenting on us like Joseph Mengele did. That’s why they called him the angel of death. Nixon and his people are no different.”

Worthington says compounding pharmacies are, “basically a meth lab. It’s really no different. These people might be educated, but they’re making drugs to kill us and then they want to hide behind the secrecy clause.”

“We’re told it’s pentobarbital but we don’t really know it is,” says Worthington of the execution drug. “We’re just told it us. We’re not allowed to know where it comes from so we can’t investigate to make sure that the company … what complaints have been against them.”

Ready to be executed

Worthington says he is prepared to die. He just believes the way the state carries out executions is wrong.

“I know where I’m going. I know I’m saved. I know I’ll be okay. I know I’m forgiven. I know I messed up in life,” says Worthington. “My life’s been hell and horrible. I don’t want to die [in prison] an old man, so getting it over with now is perfectly fine with me. They’re doing me a favor. I don’t like the way they go about doing the things they do, but I’m perfectly willing to go. I’ve had no fear of death.”

Worthington claims drugs and alcohol robbed him of his memories of the night of the murder, and says those drugs and alcohol also likely rendered him “impotent,” and unable to have attacked Griffin. He claims two other men were likely responsible; men with whom he had an association and whom he believed went into Griffin’s apartment to commit a burglary.

Griffin’s mother, Carol Angelbeck, says she’s heard that claim before, and says it was proven to be false.

“He says that [those two men] had unplugged all of Mindy’s … her television and everything and when my husband went in when they gave us the condo back …nothing was touched, so that was a lie,” says Angelbeck.

Worthington tells Missourinet that his attorneys urged him to confess and coached him on what to say, and says parts of his confession didn’t match the case.

Angelbeck doesn’t believe that, either.

“He pled guilty in open court, under oath, and he gave a blow-by-blow description of what he did to Mindy,” says Angelbeck, who says he described the crime matter-of-factly to the court. “He strangled her twice,” she says.

Most upsetting to Angelbeck was that Worthington also tells Missourinet that he had a friendly relationship with Griffin, but Angelbeck says she’s actually relieved to know what he’s saying about the crime today.

“As a decent human being and as a Christian I really was feeling a little bit sorry for him maybe,” says Angelbeck, “and this proved to me that he is never sorry, he still won’t take responsibility, so his sentence is right and it should stand.”

Asked what he would say to Angelbeck, Worthington says it hurts to know that he was the cause of Griffin’s death, saying that the two men he believes were responsible knew of Griffin through him.

“I could have possibly been there that night. I don’t know,” says Worthington. “I don’t know what it was, but yes I’m guilty in part … whether I was the actual killer or whether I was the actual one that raped her, it doesn’t matter to me. I still feel guilty in my heart.”

Worthington is set to have a clemency hearing Thursday. Governor Nixon will decide whether to grant him clemency.

Angelbeck tells Missourinet she still plans to witness Worthington’s execution.


Transportation tax opponents say it’s the wrong way (AUDIO)

Missourians will decide a week from tomorrow if they’ll  pay more sales taxes to keep money flowing into state roads and bridges.

Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions can’t hope to match supporters of the transportation sales tax plan dollar-for-dollar.  But they plan to heavily use social media, limited funding, and arguments that there are better alternatives.

The organization’s Treasurer, Tom Shrout, says the group is not entirely against a sales tax.  But it thinks backers of the plan are taking their plan the wrong way. He says it would support a “very, very small” sales tax to fund AMTRAK Service or older adults transportation programs.  But he says the user of the highway system should pay most of the costs of upkeep of roads and bridges.

Otherwise, he says, an increase in the fuel tax should be the way to go.  Shrout says the legislature has the authority to increase that tax without voter approval.  Otherwise, he says, truckers crossing the state won’t bear any of the costs of the roads their big trucks damage while the sales tax increase  will hit low-income Missourians disproportionally hard.

We’ll hear from supporters tomorrow

(AUDIO) Shrout interview 10:58

Not all agree that Missouri should monitor prescription drugs

As a New York Times article highlighted this week, Missouri is the only state without a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), but not everyone agrees on how big a problem that is.

Senator Claire McCaskill

Senator Claire McCaskill

Senator Claire McCaskill (D) calls it embarrassing that Missouri doesn’t maintain a database of the prescription drugs Missourians buy, a database that doctors, hospitals, pharmacists and others could access. Proponents say such a program could help identify individuals who “doctor shop,” and stockpile prescription medications to sell illegally.

She says Missouri has now become, “a Mecca for opiate dealers all over the country. Every opiate dealer in the country knows they can come to Missouri and avoid detection.”

Some opponents of such a program say the database it would create could be abused or hacked into.

Representative Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) says those arguments are weakened by the lack of problems in the 49 states that have a monitoring program.

“You’ve had years of experience from these other states that have not resulted in a breach of security on the database, or [a registry] hasn’t been shown to be the way police are going after people or going after doctors,” says Engler. “It’s simply used to try to stop, at the start of the process, the abuse of legal drugs.”

Representative Kevin Engler (left) and Senator Rob Schaaf (right)

Representative Kevin Engler (left) and Senator Rob Schaaf (right)

However, Senator Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) says other states have had problems.

“The database has been hacked in five states; in Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Utah and Washington,” says Schaaf.

Schaaf also points to stories of abuse of a database, such as that of a police officer in Utah who used the registry to go into a couple’s home and take their prescription pills, and of a Utah man who says immediately after his wife died of cancer, police showed up at his home asking to confiscate her pain medication.

Schaaf says there are also questions about the effectiveness of a monitoring program. He says studies of monitoring programs, “do not consistently show that they reduce deaths from opioid overdose, and at least one shows that when the PDMP is enacted, heroin use actually increases.”

Schaaf thinks a database would violate Missourians’ liberty, and says they should ask themselves whether they want the government to know what prescriptions they are taking. Still, he’s proposed versions of a registry and says he’s willing to compromise.

McCaskill believes a registry will fight prescription drug abuse, and hopes state lawmakers “wake up” about the issue soon.

“We’re killing Missourians by not doing this database,” says McCaskill.

State Supreme Court sets execution date for convicted murderer Leon Taylor

The State Supreme Court has set a date for the execution of convicted murderer Leon Taylor. He is scheduled to die by lethal injection just after midnight, September 10, at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center at Bonne Terre.

Leon Taylor (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Leon Taylor (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Taylor was convicted of the 1994 murder of Robert Newton, who was attending a gas station in Jackson County where Taylor and two of his half-siblings had purchased gas.

Taylor pulled a gun and demanded money from Newton, who gave the trio $400 in a bank money bag. Taylor then led Newton to a back room and shot him in the head, killing him.

Taylor then turned the gun on Newton’s eight-year-old step daughter Sarah Yates and pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed and the little girl was spared. Taylor wanted to return to the gas station and get the girl but his step-siblings wanted to leave, so they did.

The state’s next scheduled execution is that of Michael Shane Worthington, for the murder 19 years ago of Mindy Griffin in St. Louis. He is scheduled to be executed early the morning of August 6.


‘Sex and the City’ star’s family history of murder, abuse and incarceration in Missouri

One award-winning actress’ look at her family history has offered Missourians a look at their state’s history.

Television star Cynthia Nixon is featured on the TLC program "Who Do You Think You Are?"

Television star Cynthia Nixon is featured on the TLC program “Who Do You Think You Are?”

Cynthia Nixon, best known as one of the stars of Sex and the City, has been featured on the TLC show Who Do You Think You Are. She asked the show to look into her father’s family history. The search quickly focused on Martha Curnutt, Nixon’s great-great-great grandmother whose married name became Casto.

Nixon wondered what became of Martha’s husband, Noah Casto. Ancestry.com research manager and family historian Jennifer Utley says the answer was surprising.

“We found that she had actually killed her own husband with an axe,” says Utley.

Nixon found an 1843 newspaper entry that suggested Martha had been abused by her husband.

As Nixon reads, the article says the husband, “had been in the habit of treating his wife in a manner too brutal and too shocking to think of. On the morning of the day mentioned he told his wife to get up and get breakfast for himself and her two children, and then to commence saying her prayers, for she should die, he swore, before sunset.”

The account continues, “She got up and made a fire and returned to the room where her unnatural husband slept. He was lying on his back in a sound sleep. She took the axe with which she had been chopping wood and with one blow sunk it deep into his head, just through the eyes.”

“It is awful to think of what Martha endured,” says Nixon. “I certainly wouldn’t call [the murder] a happy ending, by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly I think a better ending than if Noah had killed Martha and maybe killed her children, too.”

Casto is found guilty of first-degree manslaughter and is sentenced to five years in the historic Missouri State Penitentiary. The prison, then only seven years old, has no dedicated facilities for women. Casto spends part of her time working in the homes of businessmen who leased the prison, and part of her time isolated in a prison cell.

While at the prison she becomes pregnant and with the help of an inmate, delivers a daughter, Sarah.  Who fathered the child is not known.

The letter urging Governor John Edwards to pardon Martha Casto includes 55 signatures, including those of a future congressman and governor and a former governor. (courtesy; Missouri State Archives)

The letter urging Governor John Edwards to pardon Martha Casto includes 55 signatures, including those of a future congressman and governor and a former governor. (courtesy; Missouri State Archives)

Utley says many prominent Missourians then petitioned then-governor John Edwards to pardon her, for her sake and the sake of the infant.

“She was there for a week with that baby with no medical aid, she was not able to build a fire, she didn’t have any kind of clothing or any kind of blankets to wrap the infant in,” says Utley.

That petition included the signatures of prominent people in Missouri political history, including a future governor and congressman, Willard Preble Hall, and a former governor, Lilburn Boggs.

The petition was successful and in December, 1844, Casto was pardoned after serving less than two years of her sentence. She returned to using her maiden name, Curnutt.

Nixon is able to hold that pardon and the petition at the Missouri State Archives in Jefferson City.

Martha Curnutt's grave in Leasburg, Missouri.  (courtesy; Findagrave.com)

Martha Curnutt’s grave in Leasburg, Missouri. (courtesy; Findagrave.com)

Nixon went on to visit Curnutt’s grave in Leasburg, Missouri. She says Curnutt must have been a strong woman to overcome abuse, and the way women were treated in the 1800s.

“I admire how she must have wanted to give up so many times, and how she kept going and how she didn’t accept things,” says Nixon of her great-great-great grandmother. “I’m sure we’ll make many jokes about it in the years to come, about the axe murderess in our family, but I think we will remain in awe of her.”