The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to consider lethal injection challenges from two death row inmates in Kentucky has Missouri authorities wondering whether the ruling will be narrowly geared to Kentucky or will extend to the rest of the country.
Brian Hauswirth with the State Department of Corrections says Missouri and other states are dealing with challenges to lethal injection and a series of claims that it constitutes a form of cruel and unusual punishment.
There has not been an execution in Missouri since Marlin Gray was put to death, by lethal injection, in October of 2005. Death row inmate Michael Taylor was to have been executed in February of 2006, but his request for a stay of execution was granted, based on his claim the state’s method of execution was a form of cruel and unusual punishment.
Federal Judge Fernando Gaitan then halted all executions in Missouri, citing problems with the state’s execution process. Earlier this year, a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overruled Judge Gaitan, saying Missouri’s lethal injection protocol is constitutional, and that decision was upheld by the entire 8th Circuit.
Lethal injections are legal again in Missouri, but no execution dates are currently scheduled. There are 45 Missouri inmates awaiting execution.