Missouri Lethal Injection Process Concerns

Published 01/29 2014 09:06PM

Updated 01/29 2014 11:20PM

JOPLIN, MO.--- A death-row inmate in Missouri was granted a temporary stay of execution by the U.S. Supreme Court, creating questions about whether the lethal injection process in Missouri needs to change. Convicted murderer, Herbert Smulls, was scheduled to be executed just after 12 this morning. The U.S. Supreme Court delayed the execution temporarily. His defense attorney argues that not knowing the source of the lethal injection makes it impossible to know whether the drug, the barbiturate pentobarbital, could cause pain and suffering.

"Barbiturates in the human system cause drowsiness for most people. There's also some dizziness that could be associated with it, but generally, they're kind of used more or less as a tranquilizer," said Rollin Trewin, Freeman Pharmacy. 

Departments of Corrections nationwide, including Missouri, are unable to get the drug from U.S. manufacturers.

"There's not going to be any U.S. drug manufacturer that's going to be willing to make a drug that's just going to be used for lethal injection," said Trewin. 

Manufacturers won't create pentobarbital for lethal injections because they do not want to be linked to the execution process. Certain states like Missouri have found an alternative method.

"The strengths of pentobarbital that are on the market wouldn't be suitable for use in lethal injection. They're not strong enough, they're not potent enough. And so they would employ a compounding pharmacy to make a more concentrated form of that," said Trewin. 

Going this route, however, has created a problem- the same that's delaying the execution process for Smulls.

"They wanted to look at the issue of whether or not the State of Missouri needs to disclose some more information about the compounding pharmacy that puts together the drugs that they use for the lethal injection," said Jacob Skouby, Neosho Prosecuting Attorney. 

The State of Missouri argues that as part of the execution team, the compounding pharmacy is entitled to anonymity. Smull's fate remains in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, it is unknown if or when he will be executed.

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