« Thanks to Gov. Brown, Plata, budget woes, state court rulings and/or _____, California lifers now have a real chance for parole | Main | "The Supreme Court and the Rehabilitative Ideal" »

February 26, 2014

Mizzou completes fourth execution in last four months

While multiple states continue to have multiple problems securing the drugs needed for execution or deflecting litigation over execution protocols, Missouri has now succeeded in completing four executions in as many months.  Here are the details of the latest one, via this AP story headlined "Missouri Executions Man in '89 Rape, Killing of Teen":

A Missouri inmate was executed early Wednesday for abducting, raping and killing a Kansas City teenager as she waited for her school bus in 1989, marking the state's fourth lethal injection in as many months.

Michael Taylor, 47, was pronounced dead at 12:10 a.m. at the state prison in Bonne Terre. Federal courts and the governor had refused last-minute appeals from his attorneys, who argued that the execution drug purchased from a compounding pharmacy could have caused Taylor inhuman pain and suffering.

Taylor offered no final statement, although he mouthed silent words to his parents, clergymen and other relatives who witnessed his death. As the process began, he took two deep breaths before closing his eyes for the last time. There were no obvious signs of distress.

His victim, 15-year-old Ann Harrison, was in her driveway, carrying her school books, flute and purse, when Taylor and Roderick Nunley abducted her. The men pulled her into their stolen car and drove her to a home, where they raped and fatally stabbed her as she pleaded for her life. Nunley was also sentenced to death. Ann's father and two of her uncles witnessed Taylor's execution. They declined to make a public statement.

In their appeals, Taylor's attorneys questioned Missouri's use of an unnamed compounding pharmacy to provide the execution drug, pentobarbital. They also cited concerns about the state executing inmates before appeals were complete and argued that Taylor's original trial attorney was so overworked that she encouraged him to plead guilty.

After using a three-drug execution method for years, Missouri switched late last year to pentobarbital. The same drug had been used in three earlier Missouri executions, and state officials said none of those inmates showed outward signs of distress. Still, attorneys for Taylor said using a drug from a compounding pharmacy, which unlike large pharmaceutical companies are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, runs the risk of causing pain and suffering during the execution.

The Oklahoma-based compounding pharmacy Apothecary Shoppe agreed last week that it wouldn't supply the pentobarbital for Taylor's execution, forcing Missouri to find a new supplier. Attorney General Chris Koster's office said a new provider had been found, but Koster refused to name the pharmacy, citing the state's execution protocol that allows the manufacturer anonymity. Taylor's attorneys said use of the drug without naming the compounding pharmacy could cause the inmate pain and suffering because no one could check if the operation was legitimate and had not been accused of any violations.

Pete Edlund doesn't want to hear it. The retired Kansas City police detective led the investigation into the teenager's death. "Cruel and unusual punishment would be if we killed them the same way they killed Annie Harrison," Edlund said. "Get a damn rope, string them up, put them in the gas chamber. Whatever it takes."

February 26, 2014 at 09:42 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Mizzou completes fourth execution in last four months :


I gather by a quick search that "Mizzou" is a nickname for "University of Missouri," but guess it also can apply to the state, unless they execute people in the university over there. Perhaps, nicknames can be used when other states execute people too. For consistency.

BTW, "Cruel and unusual punishment would be if we killed them the same way they killed Annie Harrison" is an understandable visceral sentiment, but no, that's not how it works.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 26, 2014 9:56:48 AM

There were multiple orders from the SCOTUS refusing requests for stay. In one, there was a brief statement via Justice Ginsburg:

"Justice Ginsburg, with whom Justice Sotomayor and Justice
Kagan join, dissenting.

For reasons well stated by Judge Bye in his statement calling for Eighth Circuit rehearing en banc, I would grant the stay and consider the petition for certiorari in the ordinary course."

I take that she means this:


Posted by: Joe | Feb 26, 2014 10:29:56 AM

Sorry but Baze indicates that it is entirely up to the offender to come forward with evidence that there is in fact a problem with a method of execution before a stay is to be granted. Giving the offender a stay in order to try and come up with that evidence runs entirely counter to that burden.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Feb 26, 2014 11:35:58 AM

Soronel --

Correct. For a condemned killer to win a Baze suit, he has to produce more than speculation. But speculation is all Mr. Taylor's throw-it-up-against-the-wall lawyers had.

Lawyers putting up these suits are just gaming the system for time. In a sane world, they would be sanctioned. Litigants with non-speculative claims should not be pushed to the back of a long line so that the Taylor's of this world can do seriatim last minute filings.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 26, 2014 1:06:20 PM

What interests me is how some states can secure the drugs and others cannot.

Posted by: DaveP | Feb 26, 2014 1:57:56 PM


That's just crony capitalism at work, the states that can't procure the drugs had mandated that the drugs come from particular providers rather than from whoever could come forward with the goods.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Feb 26, 2014 3:52:42 PM

A Original Framer of the Constitution would think it "unusual" to tie someone flat on a gurney and then stick needles in his arm to inject poison and tell the world the poisons are drugs. Maybe not "cruel", but "unusual". It would certainly not seem to be manly. Why not shoot them or hang them? Why is it that when electricity comes along we have to join the age of Edison and electrocute them and also gas them? Next they will be sat in a cage and subjected to Justin Bieber music until they croak.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Feb 26, 2014 7:05:57 PM

So, the law is that the prisoner has to bring forth evidence, but the state can withhold key information that can be necessary to actually find it. Neat trick if true. I'm not really sure it is, but still neat trick.

Please point to the part in Baze -- where the litigants did not rest on lack of key information to judge the safety of the procedure to my knowledge (I read the opinion and listened to the oral arguments but maybe I missed something) -- that actually covers this sort of case specifically. If anything the lack of above the board information on the drugs HELPS them somewhat on the significant risk prong.

The litigant here obviously didn't win but this assurance Baze ends things obviously is far from apparent. Including to three justices and more than one judge below. FWIW.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 26, 2014 7:14:34 PM


From Baze:

A stay of execution may not be granted on grounds such as those asserted here unless the condemned prisoner establishes that the State's lethal injection protocol creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain. He must show that the risk is substantial when compared to the known and available alternatives.

The Baze argument was (at least as put by the majority) that while the protocol as written was fine it might not get implemented as formulated in practice. I see the Taylor argument in much the same light, the admission that if the drugs are prepared properly that the execution is constitutionally fine but saying he needs to know who is preparing it in order to try and say that person does an inadequate job in some way. After Baze it is simply the offender's responsibility to come up with actual facts that show the procedure is faulty and not merely say "if this isn't done right ...". Unless an offender can present facts the stay simply isn't warranted.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Feb 26, 2014 7:48:00 PM

Joe --

It's all true. A litigant in a non-criminal case bears the burden of proving his own allegations, not requiring the other side to prove them.

Joe, what you're not getting is enough delay is enough, and speculation does not win lawsuits.

Unless you approve of gaming the system. Do you?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 26, 2014 11:25:17 PM

!Pete Edlund, proof that vengeance lives! Vengeance lives!!! Oh glorious Edlund happy day! Vengeance forever!!!

Posted by: Neanderthal | Feb 26, 2014 11:53:28 PM

Joe, you may not like it, but speculation doesn't get it done. Baze doesn't doesn't condition a state's right to execute a prisoner on some intrusive discovery based on mere allegations. But don't believe me--believe SCOTUS in Brewer v. Lnadrigan:

"But speculation cannot substitute for evidence that the use of the drug is "`sure or very likely to cause serious illness and needless suffering.'" Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35, 50, 128 S.Ct. 1520, 170 L.Ed.2d 420 (2008) (quoting Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 33, 113 S.Ct. 2475, 125 L.Ed.2d 22 (1993)). "

"The litigant here obviously didn't win but this assurance Baze ends things obviously is far from apparent. Including to three justices and more than one judge below. FWIW." That statement is pathetic. Instead of conceding the logic and argument of those who are citing law, you sniff and point to the fact that three 'rat Justices voted your way. Those 'rat Justices embarrassed themselves.

Bye's opinion is a joke, and any lawyer with an IQ above room temperature would know it (and that category would include the "wise [sic] Latina").

Let's start with the obvious--Bye doesn't even bother to cite Landrigan, which, by its terms and citing Baze, doesn't allow stays based on speculation. And that's all Bye offers--maybe the compounding facility sucks etc. etc. etc. Bye simply points to the unknown and argues (with no citation to relevant authority) that bare allegations and information unknown to the condemned entitles the condemned to a stay.

Then Bye descends into moonbattery. "However, Missouri has a storied history of ignoring death row inmates' constitutional rights to federal review of their executions." Wow. I didn't know that the US Constitution had an open courts provision similar to some state constitutional provisions. Maybe I missed that day of law school. What Bye is getting at, of course, is Missouri executing Smulls while yet another last minute appeal was pending. Never mind that Missouri was well within its rights, under unimpeachable SCOTUS precedent (Barefoot v. Estelle). Of course, what the learned judge doesn't explain is what business is it of his to complain.

Or get a load of this idiocy:

"Indeed, it is surprising Missouri has not been more transparent during this process, as it, too, has a strong interest in ensuring its executions conform with constitutional requirements. Thus, since Taylor asks for nothing more than information about the chemicals set to be injected into his own body, no undue burden has been placed on Missouri."

Missouri also has a strong interest in enforcing its judgment, and, by the by, the victim's family has a strong interest in enforcing the judgment. Funny how the learned judge seems to have missed that.

And then there's the citation of the Oklahoma execution--hmmm, I wonder what relevance an execution with a different protocol has. One thing is clear, Taylor (the Oklahoma killer) did not suffer KCl burning 12 seconds into the execution. Bye doesn't explain the relevance. Gee, I thought judicial opinions were supposed to be more than throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks.

I could go on and on, but the point is clear--Bye is a lawless judge, and a stupid one too.

But of course, the three 'rat Justices have vouched for this drivel. So they own it too. Can someone please explain how Bye's opinion is consistent with the rule of law. And while you're at it, could you explain how a Supreme Court Justice could sign off on such a lawless exercise.

We'll see what the libs on here are made of. Come on, Joe. Defend this twaddle. I dare you.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 27, 2014 12:19:21 AM

federalist --

Just so. Joe does seem to be selectively silent. Accusations based on flimsy speculation (penobarbital produces unbearable pain) warrant indefinite delays and justify a hundred last-minute motions, but flat-out falsehoods by his abolitionist buddies (America is the lone common law country with the death penalty) draw from him nary a word of rebuke.

My goodness.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 27, 2014 1:11:56 PM

"BTW, 'Cruel and unusual punishment would be if we killed them the same way they killed Annie Harrison" is an understandable visceral sentiment, but no, that's not how it works.'"

Funny how Joe will condescendingly point out the obvious. Here's my in kind response:

"BTW, it might seem that federal courts should get to micro-manage state execution procedures, but no, that's not how it works."

Pathetic that Ginsburg lauds a circuit court dissent that doesn't even bother to analyze whether there should be a stay according to the precedent.

Joe, you're inability to defend your positions is just as weak.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 1, 2014 9:11:58 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB