Missouri prepares for execution amid drug controversy

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 09, 2014 11:42 AM

By Carey Gillam

(Reuters) - Missouri officials on Tuesday were preparing to execute a man convicted of the murder of two restaurant employees as the inmate's attorney seeks a last-minute court-ordered stay, citing a controversy over Missouri's execution protocols.

Earl Ringo Jr., 40, is scheduled to die one minute after midnight on Wednesday morning. He was sentenced to death in 1999 for his role in a double murder in a Columbia, Missouri, restaurant where he had formerly worked.

He and an accomplice robbed the business of $1,400 and shot and killed a restaurant manager and a delivery truck driver in July 1998, according to court documents.

In seeking a halt to Ringo's execution, attorney Kay Parish cited in court filings a report by St. Louis Public Radio that said state corrections officials have not been truthful about the drugs and methods used in recent executions.

The report, based on court records and other documents, stated that while Missouri officials have said publicly and in court records they only use one drug, pentobarbital, to put prisoners to death, the state also has been using a sedative called midazolam in every execution since November 2013.

The use of midazolam is under scrutiny nationwide after inmates in a series of botched executions in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona were given the drug and took longer than is typical to die, showing signs of distress.

Parish is asking the court to postpone the execution until a court hearing can be held about Missouri's use of midazolam.

Oral arguments were also set to take place on Tuesday in a long-running lawsuit filed by more than a dozen Missouri death row inmates including Ringo against the state over its lethal injection protocols.

The Missouri Department of Corrections has defended its use of a sedative and said it is not part of the execution, but is given to the inmates before the executions. The state said it was prepared to go forward with the execution.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Will Dunham)