death penalty

In Missouri and across the nation, the process of executing criminals is becoming complicated. It’s one of our society’s most somber, and impactful, tasks. But how much do you know about the process? If you don’t know much about it, there may be a reason for that. Two of our colleagues at in public radio have investigated and found that the process is shrouded in secrecy. Meantime, four people have been executed in Missouri in as many months, after years of less frequent executions.

Senate floor at the Missouri Capitol
File / KBIA

A Missouri Senate committee is considering legislation on the death penalty.

Still from the film / Jaap Van Hoewijk

This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year’s True/False Festival. Find the rest of them here or download the podcast on iTunes. “Killing Time” may be the best way to describe how the family of Elroy Chester spends their day waiting at a hospitality house, as Chester is executed just a few blocks away. The film Killing Time documents the day Chester, a convicted rapist and murder, is executed in Texas… following the family...

The case of a Missouri death row inmate who accuses police of beating a false confession out of him was heard Tuesday by the State Supreme Court. Reginald Clemons is seeking to have both his conviction and death sentence tossed out. He was one of four men convicted in the 1991 rape and murders of Julie and Robin Kerry on the Chain of Rocks bridge at St. Louis. In 2009 Jackson County Circuit Judge Michael Manners was appointed a special master to look at the case. In 2012, he released his...

Nottingham Vet School / Flikr

An Oklahoma compounding pharmacy linked to Missouri's new lethal injection drug is now seeking a license to do business in the neighboring state.

An Oklahoma compounding pharmacy has supplied Missouri with the drug it's used three times to execute inmates, despite the fact that the pharmacy isn't licensed here. Now the Apothecary Shoppe is attempting to become licensed in Missouri. According to records obtained by St. Louis Public Radio, the Oklahoma Board of Pharmacy received a letter from the Apothecary Shoppe on Jan. 13, when the pharmacy said it was planning on registering in both Missouri and Texas. Last summer, the Apothecary...

Flickr / steakpinball

A federal judge in Missouri has denied a motion to grant a 60-day stay of execution for convicted killer Herbert Smulls.

Late Friday night, a group of federal judges found that the compounding pharmacy making Missouri's execution drug can remain secret, but new emails point to one pharmacy as the likely supplier. As we revealed in last month's investigation, we narrowed the possible suppliers down to three pharmacies that could be supplying the execution drug to Missouri; none were licensed to do business in this state. Emails published Saturday by the Louisiana-based investigative outlet the Lens show that the...

Photo by Yaniv Ben-Arie via Flickr

The attorney for Missouri death row inmate Herbert Smulls , scheduled to die by injection on Jan. 29, has asked a federal court for a 60-day stay of execution over concerns about the execution drug. Attorney Cheryl Pilate filed the motion for a stay on Tuesday with U.S. District Court in Jefferson City. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Koster says the state will respond by Friday, but otherwise declined comment. Smulls was sentenced to death for killing a St. Louis County jeweler in...

Missouri Capitol
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Death penalty opponents are using the 25th anniversary of Missouri's resumption of capital punishment to highlight their desire to halt executions. George Mercer was executed on Jan. 6, 1989, for the 1978 rape and slaying of waitress Karen Keeten in the Kansas City area. Mercer's execution was Missouri's first after a nationwide moratorium on capital punishment was lifted in 1976. Since then, Missouri has executed 70 inmates. Death penalty opponents planned a news conference Monday at the...

execution gurney
California Department of Corrections / Wikimedia Commons

Missouri has put two people to death since last November, with another execution scheduled for late January. St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon's Chris McDaniel and Véronique LaCapra have been looking into the state's secretive and controversial lethal injection process. They've discovered the state may be ignoring its own laws in carrying out the death penalty.

In an investigation spanning the past few months, St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon has discovered the state of Missouri may be ignoring its own laws in carrying out the death penalty by buying execution drugs from a pharmacy not licensed to do business in Missouri. As we’ve reported in previous months , a shortage of willing drug suppliers led Missouri Gov . Jay Nixon to direct the state to adopt a controversial new execution method. Now the state is using a sedative, pentobarbital , a...

Old prison
File Photo / KBIA

Use of the death penalty declined nationally in 2013, but the punishment has seen a resurgence in Missouri. The Death Penalty Information Center on Thursday released a report showing that 39 people were executed in the U.S. in 2013, just the second time in 19 years that fewer than 40 were put to death. Missouri has executed two men in the past month — Joseph Paul Franklin on Nov. 29 and Allen Nicklasson on Dec. 11. The executions were the first in Missouri since 2011, and the most in a single...

A Kansas City man has been executed for killing a good Samaritan who stopped to help him and his friends after their car had broken down in 1994.

Flickr / steakpinball

The execution of a convicted killer in Missouri is on hold at least for several hours.

Flickr / steakpinball

A panel of federal judges has stayed a Missouri man's execution a little more than a day before he was set to die.

Flickr / steakpinball

Missouri's execution of a white supremacist who claimed responsibility for killings across the country could increase the state's use of the death penalty.

A month ago, St. Louis Public Radio reported on the questionable manner in which the state of Missouri got ahold of its potential execution drug. Now Missouri has a new plan to go ahead with two upcoming executions, butthe process is anything but open. Updated 11/14/13 3:24 p.m. On Oct. 11, Gov . Jay Nixon told the Department of Corrections to make a change. He wanted them to come up with a new drug to carry out executions.The drug they’d originally planned to use is a popular medical...

joegratz / flickr

Missouri death row inmate Joseph Franklin has an unexpected advocate for the stoppage of his planned execution. Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Foundation filed a motion in federal court to have documentation concerning Franklin’s planned execution unsealed. Flynt was paralyzed from the waist down in 1978 after being shot by Franklin in Georgia in retaliation for Hustler containing an interracial photo spread. Franklin is facing execution for...

Two weeks ago,Gov. Jay Nixon instructed the Missouri Department of Corrections to come up with a new procedure for carrying out lethal injections. On Tuesday, the department announced that it had chosen a new execution drug: pentobarbital. But the state also made a change that will end up making it harder, if not impossible, to know where the drugs come from. It was already illegal to reveal the identity of anyone who is – or ever was – a member of the state’s “execution team.” Previously,...

On Tuesday, the Missouri Department of Corrections announced that it had selected a new drug for upcoming executions: pentobarbital. The change comes following criticism of the questionable methods Missouri had obtained the drug it had previously planned to use, as well as concern that its use could harm hospitals throughout the U.S. The state had planned to use a common anesthetic named propofol, which has never been used to carry out an execution. All of the drug's manufacturers objected to...

Veronique LaCapra / St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday, Governor Jay Nixon postponed the execution of an inmate that was set for later this month. That execution was going to be carried out using propofol, a common anesthetic that has never been used in a lethal injection before. So why the change in plans? Part of why anesthesiologists like to use propofol is because it acts fast and has few side effects. In fact, propofol is the most widely-used anesthetic in the US. It’s used on average 140,000 times per day, for everything from...

Flickr / steakpinball

A judge has excluded testimony about the good character of a southeast Missouri murder victim when his convicted killer gets a new sentencing hearing. The ruling Friday by Boone County Circuit Judge Kevin Crane comes as attorneys are preparing for a sentencing hearing for Mark Gill. Gill was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the March 2004 slaying of Ralph Lape Jr. of rural Cape Girardeau County. The Missouri Supreme Court in 2009 overturned his sentence because his...

syringe of propofol
Nottingham Vet School / Flickr

A group representing Missouri anesthesiologists is urging the state to drop plans to use propofol in an upcoming execution, saying the fallout could jeopardize the availability of the anesthetic for thousands of U.S. hospitals and clinics that rely on it.

Noahudlis / Wikimedia Commons

The American Civil Liberties Union hopes to block two executions in Missouri this fall by seeking to disqualify the anesthesiologist used by the Department of Corrections . Jeffrey Mittman is Executive Director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri . He says the American Board of Anesthesiology has recently adopted the same standards used by the American Medical Association , meaning that they cannot participate in ending someone's life. " This individual has asserted that in the past he has...

syringe of propofol
Nottingham Vet School / Flickr

The Missouri Supreme Court's decision to move ahead with two executions this year is being questioned by some death penalty observers and opponents. The state High Court on Wednesday set execution dates for condemned killers Allen Nicklasson and Joseph Franklin. Missouri plans to become the first-ever state to use the anesthetic propofol for lethal injection. Propofol was used in the death of pop star Michael Jackson.

KBIA File Photo

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon says he does not support the gas chamber method to execute prisoners according to KMOX . The issue of lethal injection in death penalty cases has been tied up in courts. Last week, Attorney General Chris Koster suggested Missouri use gas chambers for prisoner executions. He says state statutes allow for either method of execution. When Governor Nixon was asked about Koster's suggestion at a press conference Tuesday, he said Missouri does not have a gas chamber and...

Attorney General's Office

Attorney General Chris Koster says Missouri may have to resort to using the gas chamber to carry out death sentences. It would be considered as an “unintended consequence” of the state Supreme Court’s refusal to set execution dates.

Kristofor Husted / KBIA

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster wants the state Supreme Court to set execution dates for two inmates before the state's supply of an execution drug expires. Koster has renewed a request for execution dates to be set for Allen Nicklasson and Joseph Franklin. The state's highest court refused to do so last August, citing a legal challenge to the state's newly planned use of the drug propofol as its execution method. The attorney general's office said Monday that the Department of...

Nitzan Brumer / FLICKR

Missouri’s plans to use the anesthetic propofol in executions may face new delays. In May, Missouri announced it was switching to propofol after sodium thiopental, another drug commonly used in executions, became harder to acquire. But, Fresenius Kabi USA , one of propofol’s two domestic suppliers, announced last week it was instructing its distributors not to fill orders from departments of corrections in the United States. The company says it objects to the use of the drug for reasons...