Death Penalty

Inmate is executed amid 'cowardly shroud of secrecy' surrounding drug source, editorial says

Missouri inmate Herbert Smulls was executed Wednesday night after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a stay of execution amid questions about the execution drug and its source.

Smulls was executed for the murder of a jewelry store owner during a 1991 robbery, report NBC News and the Associated Press. Smulls’ lawyers had asked the state to reveal the name of the compounding pharmacy that supplied the pentobarbital used in the execution, but the St. Louis-based 8th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request.

The New York Times decried the secrecy in an editorial that accuses Missouri and other states of racing to execute inmates “using new and untested drug protocols developed on the fly and under a cowardly shroud of secrecy.”

“It is bad enough that the death penalty is barbaric, racist and arbitrary in its application,” the editorial said, “but it is also becoming less transparent as the dwindling number of death-penalty states work to hide the means by which they kill people.”

The 8th Circuit had ruled Smulls was not entitled to the name of the pharmacy unless he could show pentobarbital has a high risk of severe pain that is more severe than that of other execution drugs. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. issued a temporary execution stay on Tuesday while the Supreme Court considered two petitions by defense lawyers. The court lifted the stay Wednesday evening.

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