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 Missouri Capitol.
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.
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 year since five in 2005.
The state of Missouri is still awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether it can proceed with the execution of death row inmate Allen Nicklasson.
Nicklasson had been scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for the 1994 murder of businessman Richard Drummond, who was shot to death after he stopped to help when a car carrying Nicklasson and two others stalled in central Missouri.
A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay over concerns about Nicklasson's legal representation.