Next on Death Row: Inmate Worries About Botched Execution
May 16, 2014

(AP) – A Missouri death row inmate scheduled to be the first person put to death in the U.S. since a botched execution in Oklahoma last month said he is scared the lethal drug could cause him to suffer or leave him alive but brain-dead.
Russell Bucklew, who turned 46 on Friday, is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for killing a man living with his ex-girlfriend as part of a crime spree in southeast Missouri in 1996.
It would be the first death penalty carried out in the U.S. since April 29, when Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett writhed on the gurney, gritted his teeth, and moaned before dying of an apparent heart attack 43 minutes after the start of his execution. A doctor inside the death chamber during the execution reported that Lockett’s vein collapsed and some of the lethal drugs were absorbed into his tissue or leaked out.
The incident prompted renewed concern about lethal injection in an era when many states, including Oklahoma and Missouri, have changed drugs they administer and refuse to disclose the source of the execution drugs.

Bucklew suffers from a congenital condition that causes weakened and malformed blood vessels, and tumors in his nose and throat. He told AP in a phone interview Friday that he often bleeds from the eyes and ears. He has constant pain in the face that requires pain medication every six hours.
In light of his condition and what happened in Oklahoma, Bucklew said he’s worried about what will happen to him.
“I’m worried it could be painful,” Bucklew said. “I’m worried about being brain-dead. I understand the family (of the victim) wants closure, but we’re victimizing my family here, too.”
Former Cape Girardeau County prosecutor Morley Swingle said he has no sympathy for Bucklew.
“I truly believe he’s probably the most evil person I ever prosecuted because he’s such a pure sociopath,” Swingle said. “When he had it in his mind to hurt somebody, you just couldn’t stop him.”

Attorney Warns Next Missouri Execution Could Be Bitched, Too
May 1, 2014

The lawyer for the a Missouri inmate scheduled to be executed later this month says there is “a high likelihood” the execution of Russell Bucklew could be “botched”.

Attorney Cheryl Pilate says Bucklew’s medical condition, he had badly damaged blood vessel in his head, could complicate the scheduled execution by lethal injection.

“He can bleed on a very regular, and sometimes daily, basis. What could happen in an execution is truly horrifying to consider,” she said.

Pilate’s prediction comes just days after the execution of an Oklahoma inmate had problems. The troubles in Oklahoma have led calls to have capital punishment re-examined in the US.

Pilate also says Missouri should be more transparent about it’s execution process.

She says the chemicals Missouri uses to provide the lethal injection are not properly regulated. She adds that the lethal injection chemical could, in Bucklew’s case, cause problems.

That’s because he is already on medication for the blood vessel problem.

“The likelihood of a botched execution, like I said, involves a number of things. Heavy bleeding during the execution. Choking on the blood, impaired circulation of the drug. If the drug doesn’t circulate properly, it may not have the proper effect. That could lead to a prolonged and very painful execution,” Pilate claimed.

Pilate also says she is considering asking the courts to video tape Bucklew’s execution if it comes to that.

She says that will provide an accurate record of what happens when his death sentenced is executed.

Questions About Missouri’s Lethal Injection at Center of Last Minute Execution Stay Bid
January 28, 2014

AP) – Lawyers for a convicted murderer scheduled for a midnight execution were making last-minute pleas to spare the Missouri man’s life on Tuesday, focusing on the state’s refusal to disclose where it obtains its execution drug.

Herbert Smulls was convicted and sentenced to death for killing a St. Louis County jeweler and badly injuring his wife during a 1991 robbery. The 56-year-old is scheduled for lethal injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

His defense attorney, Cheryl Pilate, has an appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court and is seeking clemency from Gov. Jay Nixon, who said Tuesday afternoon that he was still weighing the request. Pilate’s arguments are mostly focused on the secrecy shrouding the execution drug.

State prison officials have refused to reveal from which compounding pharmacy they obtained their lethal-injection drug, pentobarbital. Pilate contends that the secrecy makes it impossible to know whether the drug could cause pain and suffering during the execution process.

The prospect of being put to death with a drug whose origin remains sealed “terrifies” Smulls, his attorney said. Pilate also said her client changed in prison, becoming a man who gets along well with other inmates and guards, and who has learned to write despite a low level of intelligence.

“I frankly cannot begin to tell you how distressing this situation is, that the state is going to execute a prisoner in his mid-50s who made one series of colossal mistakes that were in many ways out of character, because he is not a violent person,” Pilate said.

St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said talk about the drug is a smoke screen aimed at sparing the life of a cold-blooded killer. He noted that several courts have already ruled against Smulls, including U.S. District Court in Kansas City and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rizzo Wants Missouri Execution Delay While Lethal Injections are Checked
January 12, 2014

(AP) – The mystery swirling around where Missouri prison officials obtain the drug for lethal injections is prompting demands to halt executions until the source is revealed, including one lawmaker who wants to impose a moratorium before a scheduled execution this month.

The Missouri Department of Corrections maintains that the drug maker is part of the execution team and is therefore protected by state privacy laws. Other states have taken similar positions, in part because of backlash against the drug makers by anti-death penalty advocates.

But with the chorus of concerns mounting – including harsh criticism from a federal judge and lawsuits – Rep. John Rizzo said Friday that he plans to introduce legislation on Monday that would halt executions through most of 2014. It also would create a commission to look into the concerns.

The Kansas City Democrat said the state needs to assure the public that the execution process is fair and the drug, pentobarbital, was legally obtained.

“We’re here to make sure the government is working the way it’s supposed to and not circumventing the process, circumventing laws,” he said.

Attorneys for death-row inmates, including Herbert Smulls, scheduled for execution on Jan. 29, also have called on the state’s U.S. attorneys and the Missouri Board of Pharmacy to investigate if laws were broken in obtaining the drug. The demands came after St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Beacon, citing information pieced together from public records requests, reported that Missouri obtained its pentobarbital doses from a compounding pharmacy in Oklahoma that isn’t licensed to do business in Missouri.

“Missouri is breaking the law to execute people and they are doing it under the cover of darkness,” said Smulls’ attorney, Cheryl Pilate.

Corrections Department spokesman David Owen declined an interview request from The Associated Press. But he said in an email, “the process that is utilized relating to the acquisition of drugs used in executions is in compliance with all laws.”

A spokeswoman for Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster declined comment.

Rep. Paul Fitzwater, chairman of the House Corrections Committee, where Rizzo’s bill would likely be assigned, said it was too early to speculate on the chances of Rizzo’s bill passing

Nixon Delays Execution of Man in Excelsior Springs Killing Because Lethal Drug Dispute
October 11, 2013

(AP) — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday halted what was to have been the first U.S. execution to use the popular anesthetic propofol, following threats from the European Union to limit the drug’s export if it were used for that purpose.
Nixon also ordered the Missouri Department of Corrections to come up with a different way to perform lethal injections without propofol, the leading anesthetic used in America’s hospitals and clinics. Nearly 90 percent of the nation’s propofol is imported from Europe.

“As governor, my interest is in making sure justice is served and public health is protected,” Nixon said in a statement. “That is why, in light of the issues that have been raised surrounding the use of propofol in executions, I have directed the Department of Corrections that the execution of Allen Nicklasson, as set for October 23, will not proceed.”

Nixon, a Democrat and staunch supporter of the death penalty, did not specifically mention the EU threat in his brief statement. Nixon was Missouri’s longtime attorney general before he was first elected governor in 2008. During his 16 years as attorney general, 59 men were executed.

The leading propofol maker, Germany-based Fresenius Kabi, and anesthesiologists had warned of a possible propofol shortage that could impact millions of Americans if any executions took place.

Drug makers in recent years have stopped selling potentially lethal pharmaceuticals to prisons and corrections departments because they don’t want them used in executions. That has left the nearly three dozen death penalty states, including Missouri, scrambling for alternatives.

Missouri altered its execution protocol in April 2012 to use propofol. The drug gained some level of infamy in 2009 when pop star Michael Jackson died of a propofol overdose.

Soon after Nixon’s announcement, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a motion with the Missouri Supreme Court to vacate the Oct. 23 execution date for Nicklasson and to set a new date “soon after” Franklin’s execution date of Nov. 20. A spokeswoman for Koster declined comment.

Koster, a Democrat, and Republican Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer have suggested that if the state can’t execute by lethal injection it consider going back to the gas chamber, something that hasn’t been used since the 1960s. Missouri no longer has a gas chamber but Schaefer recently wrote to Nixon, urging him to consider funding construction of a new one in his next fiscal year budget.

Nicklasson was convicted of the 1994 killing of Excelsior Springs businessman Richard Drummond, who stopped to help when a car used by Nicklasson and two others broke down on Interstate 70 in central Missouri. Another man in the car, Dennis Skillicorn, was executed in 2009.