Death Penalty

SCOTUS suspends temporary stay for death row inmate


Updated: A Missouri death row inmate Tuesday evening got a temporary stay of execution from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, based on questions regarding the execution drug’s quality and source. However, at about 5:30 p.m. ET, the court removed the stay, NBC News reported.

The three-sentence order from the court offered no explanation for denying Smulls’ appeals, CNN reported.

According to the Associated Press, lawyers for Smulls had argued that the lethal injection drug used by Missouri could cause him to suffer during the process. If the U.S. Supreme Court denies the appeal, Smulls could be executed Wednesday.

Previously, the St. Louis-based 8th U.S Circuit Court of Appeal found that to make a successful argument with that theory, Smull’s lawyer would need to show that Missouri’s use of pentobarbital has a high risk of severe pain, and that its risk for that is higher than other execution methods.

A Missouri law prohibits naming members of “execution teams,” and the state attorney general’s office maintains that the restriction applies to pharmacies supplying the lethal injection drugs.

A Western District of Missouri U.S. District Court judge denied a stay on Smulls’ execution Jan. 27, seemingly with reluctance.

“The court recognizes that previous rulings by this court and the Eighth Circuit have made it impossible for Smulls to discover the information necessary to meet his burden and that that fact weighs heavily on the court,” Judge Beth Phillips wrote.

According to St. Louis Public Radio, the Apothecary Shoppe, an Oklahoma pharmacy, supplies the drug used for Missouri executions. The station reports that the Apothecary Shoppe is not licensed to do business in Missouri.

Smulls was convicted of robbing and murdering Stephen Honickman, who owned a Chesterfield, jewelry store. Honickman’s wife, Florence, survived the 1991 shooting.

Updated at 9:09 p.m. to note the Supreme Court’s decision.

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