Missouri has carried out the execution of David Zink, who kidnapped, raped, and murdered 19-year-old Amanda Morton of Strafford. His death came 14 years and two days after hers.
Zink’s official time of death was 7:41, approximately ten minutes after being injected with five grams of pentobarbital, at the state prison in Bonne Terre.
Zink issued a statement apologizing for his crime and urging fellow death row inmates not to fight their sentences, as attorneys for him did until his final hours.
“I can’t imagine the pain and anguish one experiences when they learn that someone has killed a loved one, and I offer my sincerest apology to Amanda Morton’s family and friends for my actions. I hope my execution brings them the peace and satisfaction they seek,” he wrote.
“I also have to apologize to the second set of victims, my family and friends, that had the unfortunate circumstance of developing emotions which will now cause them pain and suffering upon my execution. I kept my promise to fight this case for their benefit, and although unsuccessful to prevent the execution, we have been successful in exposing some serious flaws that offend the basic concept of the American justice system.
“For those who remain on death row, understand that everyone is going to die. Statistically speaking, we have a much easier death than most, so I encourage you to embrace it and celebrate our true liberation before society figures it out and condemns us to life without parole and we too will die a lingering death,” Zink concluded.
Zink refers to his role as the namesake plaintiff in a case challenging the constitutionality of Missouri’s lethal injection protocol, which his attorneys argued leaves a risk of suffering for an inmate being put to death. That suit has been cited by attorneys for many of the 17 men executed in Missouri since November, 2013, but has not been successful in stopping any executions.
No one witnessed the execution at Zink’s request. There were several witnesses representing Amanda Morton.
A brutal crime
Zink rear-ended Morton’s vehicle at an exit ramp on Highway 44 while she was driving home. She called authorities, who found her car with its engine running and her personal belongings still inside.
A hotel manager later recognized Morton’s photo on a television broadcast and called police. That eventually led them to Zink, who had signed the hotel register when he took her there. When Zink was arrested at home he confessed and led authorities to a cemetery where he had tied her to a tree, broke her neck, strangled her, stuffed her mouth with mud and leaves, then buried her. He also stabbed her in the back of the neck to make sure she would not revive.
DNA from her body, hair samples found in Zink’s truck, and paint from her car found on his truck also connected him to the crime.
Zink said he killed Morton because he didn’t want to go back to prison. He had been released five months earlier from a Texas prison where he had served 20 years for abduction and rape. Victims in his crimes in Texas testified in the penalty phase of his trial for Morton’s death.
Zink was executed after the U.S. Supreme Court denied seven motions including six motions for stays.
After those were denied, Governor Jay Nixon denied clemency to Zink. In a statement he wrote, “After serving a prison sentence for rape and kidnapping committed in Texas, David Zink abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered Amanda Morton. These acts were brutal and horrifying, and a jury determined that the appropriate punishment for her murderer was the death penalty. The guilt of David Zink in this crime is unquestioned, and my denial of clemency upholds the jury’s decision.
As this matter proceeds to its conclusion, I ask that the people of Missouri remember Amanda Morton, and keep her and her family in their thoughts and prayers.”
Attorney General Chris Koster also issued a statement: “The horror and fear 19-year-old Amanda Morton must have felt after being kidnapped by David Zink that July night is truly unimaginable. David Zink callously took a young woman’s life, and it is fitting he pay by losing his own.”
Another legal proceeding that could have postponed or stopped his execution was a challenge to the way Missouri obtains the pentobarbital it uses in its lethal injections. That challenge said that Missouri violates federal laws and its own by having a compounding pharmacy make a copy of the drug, which is FDA approved and available in its original form, using a prescription obtained from a doctor that has conducted no medical examination and is under contract with the state. That case was dismissed on Monday.
Missouri is next scheduled to execute Roderick Nunley, one of two men responsible for the rape and murder of 15-year-old Ann Harrison in 1989. Nunley is scheduled to die by lethal injection September 1 at the prison in Bonne Terre. The other man involved in her murder, Michael Taylor, was executed in February, 2014.