Sunday, 17 June 2007

Death-row inmate's sentence contested

For now, stay of execution for Michael Taylor remains in effect.

Cheryl Wittenauer The Associated Press St. Louis

Attorney General Jay Nixon's move to set an execution date for condemned killer Michael Taylor is "blatantly premature," his attorney argued in documents filed Friday with the Missouri Supreme Court.

A lower federal court's stay of execution remains in effect unless the full 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denies a request to hear Taylor's case, attorney Ginger Anders wrote.
Anders said she plans to file that request on July 2 and, if necessary, will further appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Moreover, she said the "overwhelming evidence regarding the unreasonable risks" posed by the state's execution procedures warrant a closer look to ensure those procedures are constitutional, she wrote.
She said the state has shown it cannot ensure executions are humane.

The attorney general's office did not immediately return e-mails and a phone call seeking comment.
On June 4, a three-judge panel of the appeals court in St. Louis ruled that Missouri's lethal injection method does not violate constitutional guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment.
Anders wrote that Taylor is likely to win a reversal of that decision, which she says ignored extensive evidence and mischaracterized her client's arguments.

"It is to everyone's advantage — the state, the Department of Corrections, Taylor and other inmates and the judiciary — to allow Taylor to litigate his case to final adjudication," she wrote. "The constitutionality of lethal injection procedures affects all death row inmates."
Within days of the ruling, Nixon asked the state Supreme Court to set execution dates for Taylor and nine other condemned inmates — more than one-fifth of all inmates on death row in the state.

Nixon did not request any specific dates. It isn't clear when the first of the new executions might take place.
Missouri currently has 46 condemned prisoners.
But the state hasn't executed an inmate since convicted killer Marlin Gray was put to death in October 2005.

Last year, a federal judge effectively halted executions when it ordered the state to reform its protocol, including retaining a doctor with expertise in anesthesia to assist. The state has been unable to find such a person. Under the appeals panel's ruling, it wouldn't have to.

In fact, Anders said, it's not clear who will be overseeing executions. She said she interprets the panel's ruling to allow the state to bring back Jefferson City surgeon Alan Doerhoff, the dyslexic doctor who previously oversaw administration of the lethal chemicals.

The state has said that other "appropriate medical personnel" and not Doerhoff will be used for the procedure.

The debate has centered on how three drugs used in lethal injection executions are administered in succession. If the initial anesthetic does not take hold, a third drug that stops the heart can cause excruciating pain, it has been argued. But the inmate would not be able to communicate the pain because of a second drug that paralyzes him.

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