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