Missouri has carried out its 3rd execution of the year. The state has executed 52-year-old Andre Cole, who was sentenced to death for the 1998 stabbing death of a friend of his ex-wife.
He received a lethal dose of pentobarbital at 10:15 p.m. in the execution chamber at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic & Correctional Center in Bonne Terre. As the lethal injection took place, Cole turned his head towards members of his family as they blew him kisses. He then took three deep breaths and closed his eyes. His official time of death was 10:24 p.m.
The execution had been scheduled for 6 p.m. but was delayed several hours by final attempts by Cole’s attorneys to have his life spared. Governor Jay Nixon denied an appeal for clemency for Cole at 9:44 and the U.S. Supreme Court denied multiple motions for stays, allowing the execution to proceed.
After eleven years of marriage and two children, Andre Cole and his wife Terri, divorced in 1995. In August, 1998, Cole owed $3,000 in back child support to his ex-wife, when his employer began withholding money from his paycheck. Cole had reportedly told several co-workers he would kill his ex-wife before giving her any more money. Cole went to her house and broke in by throwing a car jack through a window. Court documents say Anthony Curtis was visiting Terri that night and asked Cole to leave. Cole stabbed Curtis 21 times killing him, before attacking Terri and stabbing her repeatedly, but she survived.
After the attack Cole fled the state but he returned to St. Louis 33 days later and turned himself into police. DNA analysis confirmed the presence of both victims’ blood on the knife and the presence of Cole’s blood at the scene of the crime.
Cole’s lawyers tried to appeal by offering the findings of a psychiatrist that said Cole is depressed and has symptoms of psychosis, specifically delusions that keep him from understanding why he would be executed. The Missouri Supreme Court rejected that appeal saying that he is competent, in part by reviewing audio recordings of telephone conversations in which it says Cole demonstrated that he understands his sentence and the reason for it.
There was a flurry of protests from civil rights activists and religious leaders demanding Nixon stop the execution to allow for an official review of alleged racial bias in Missouri’s jury selection process. Cole was sentenced to death by an all-white jury in the jurisdiction that covers Ferguson, the scene of last summer’s unrest over state-sanctioned racial discrimination. Three potential black jurors were removed from the jury pool during Cole’s case at the demand of St. Louis County prosecutors.
Protesters claim systemic racial bias within St. Louis County has put a vastly disproportionate number of black men on death row. The recent report from the U.S. Department of Justice found that Ferguson’s municipal police and court systems displayed signs of racial bias and operated in an illegal and unconstitutional way.
Missouri currently has 19 white men, 13 black men, and no women sentenced to death.
Missouri was scheduled to carry out the execution of Kimber Edwards in May, but the State Supreme Court has lifted its execution order without explanation. Edward’s attorneys responded on the day his execution was scheduled asking for a stay on the grounds that both have other clients with pending court proceedings that would conflict with their being able to work on his case leading up to May 12. Missouri currently does not have another execution scheduled.