Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Court holds back Missouri execution

Court holds back Missouri execution


The Missouri Supreme Court has postponed what would have been the state's first execution in nearly three years, to allow further legal challenges to its lethal-injection protocol.

The court last month set a July 30 execution date for John Middleton, but issued a stay of execution Friday after learning that Middleton was seeking to join a federal lawsuit by five other death-row inmates.

That suit challenges Missouri's execution protocol as unconstitutional, alleging that the state has a history of using unfit, unscreened personnel.

Missouri has not executed an inmate since Marlin Gray, a convicted killer, was put to death in October 2005. Another killer, Michael Taylor, was to be next, but the court granted a last-minute stay in February 2006.

Nationwide, executions were on hold while Taylor and other inmates challenged constitutionality of the lethal injection. In Taylor's suit, the surgeon who supervised Missouri's lethal injection testified that he was dyslexic.

A Post-Dispatch investigation revealed that the surgeon, Alan R. Doerhoff, had been sued for malpractice more than 20 times and publicly reprimanded by the State Board of Healing Arts.

In April, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Kentucky's lethal injection protocol, opening the door for states to resume executions.

But challenges continued in Missouri, where a federal judge in Kansas City ruled that the Supreme Court's ruling in the Kentucky case did not address the concerns raised about the fitness of Missouri's execution team.

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