Target: Judge Mary Russell, Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court
Goal: Demand that the state of Missouri fully disclose information about its lethal injection drugs and stop executing prisoners awaiting federal appeal
While it is technically legal to proceed with an execution before all appeals are exhausted experts say it’s rarely done. Missouri has already managed to do so three times in 2014. The three death row inmates were killed by lethal injection using an unregulated and undisclosed drug and while appealing to the courts to demand more information. The U.S. Supreme Court, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and federal district courts have all warned against moving forward while the constitutionality of an execution remains in question yet the Missouri Supreme Court continues to do just that.
Take the case of Allen Nicklasson who sought help from the federal Court of Appeals when the state of Missouri refused to provide information about the drug protocol that would be used to put him to death. Nicklasson was executed before a federal verdict could be issued. Another death row inmate, Herbert Smulls, was literally dragged off to be executed by prison guards while he was on the phone with his lawyer. Smulls was also awaiting the Court of Appeals’ decision regarding the legality of his execution.
A prisoner cannot dispute the constitutionality of their death sentence when so much information is withheld. And to see the Missouri Supreme Court repeatedly hold itself as the highest courts in the nation is reason for grave concern. Demand an end to the state’s questionable death penalty practices.
Dear Chief Justice Russell,
As Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak noted, “it is hard to see how death row inmates can argue that a given method of execution violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment if they are barred from knowing what the method is.” Liptak was referring to the state of Missouri’s refusal to provide death row inmates information about the drugs that will be used to execute them.
A prisoner’s constitutional rights would be violated if the drugs used to induce death caused the inmate to experience a prolonged and painful death. Yet Missouri has been loathe to disclose the source of its lethal injection drugs or to demonstrate that they are properly stored after purchase. Regarding a recent case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit one judge went so far as to say that “from the absolute dearth of information Missouri has disclosed to this court, the ‘pharmacy’ on which Missouri relies could be nothing more than a high school chemistry class.”
The execution of prisoners should under no circumstances be rushed in order to subvert the law. Despite their crimes death row inmates are human beings with constitutional rights. They deserve access to information about the way they will be killed and to have their legal appeals given full consideration. Please, put an end to Missouri’s questionable death penalty practices by disclosing information about lethal injection drugs and awaiting the resolution of appeals before proceeding with any future executions.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: CACorrections via Flickr