TIME Crime

Missouri Just Tied its Lethal Injection Record

Missouri Execution Taylor
Leon Taylor, sentenced to death in the killing of a gas station attendant, was executed by lethal injection early Wednesday morning. AP

Leon Taylor's lethal injection is the state's ninth this year

Missouri executed a convicted murderer, Leon Taylor, early Wednesday morning, the state’s ninth lethal injection this year and the most since Missouri’s record-setting pace in 1999.

Taylor, convicted of killing a Kansas City gas station attendant in 1994 in front of the worker’s 8-year-old stepdaughter, was executed with a single dose of pentobarbital. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declined to grant Taylor clemency, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied hearing the inmate’s appeals to halt his execution.

According to witnesses and prison officials, the execution went off without problems. Several prolonged lethal injections in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona earlier this year were widely considered to have been botched.

Missouri’s pace of executions this year is now second only to Texas, which has carried out 10 lethal injections in 2014 so far. According to experts, Missouri is executing inmates at a higher rate in part because it seems to have an adequate supply of the sedative pentobarbital, allowing Missouri to execute a number of inmates who have been waiting on death row for years.

TIME Crime

Missouri Executes Leon Taylor for 1994 Killing

Missouri Execution Taylor
Convicted killer Leon Taylor was sentenced to death for killing gas-station attendant Robert Newton in Independence, Mo., in 1994 AP

Governor Jay Nixon declined to grant Taylor clemency, and the U.S. Supreme Court turned down his appeal

(BONNE TERRE, MO.) — A man who killed a suburban Kansas City gas station attendant in front of the worker’s young stepdaughter in 1994 was put to death early Wednesday — the ninth execution in Missouri this year.

Leon Taylor, 56, was pronounced dead at 12:22 a.m. at the state prison in Bonne Terre, minutes after receiving a lethal injection. With Taylor’s death, 2014 ties 1999 for having the most executions in a year in Missouri.

Taylor shot worker Robert Newton to death in front of Newton’s 8-year-old stepdaughter during a gas station robbery in Independence, Missouri. Taylor tried to kill the girl, too, but the gun jammed.

Taylor’s fate was sealed Tuesday when Gov. Jay Nixon declined to grant clemency and the U.S. Supreme Court turned down his appeal.

Taylor, his body covered by a white sheet, could be seen in the execution chamber talking to family members through the glass in an adjacent room. Once the state started injecting 5 grams of pentobarbital, Taylor’s chest heaved for several seconds then stopped. His jaw went slack and he displayed no other movement for the rest of the process.

Four of Taylor’s family members sat in a room to his left and looked on without reaction as the drug killed Taylor in about eight minutes. At a time when executions have gone awry in Oklahoma, Ohio and Arizona and taking an extended period to kill an inmate, Taylor’s execution went off without any visible hitches or complications with the drug or equipment.

In a written statement, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said Taylor “coldly murdered” Newton.

“Those who knew and loved Robert Newton waited two decades for the imposition of justice that finally came early this morning,” Koster said.

According to court records, Taylor, his half brother and half sister decided to rob a gas station on April 14, 1994. Newton was at the station with his stepdaughter.

Taylor entered the store, drew a gun and told Newton, 53, to put $400 in a money bag. Newton complied and the half brother, Willie Owens, took the money to the car.

Taylor then ordered Newton and the child to a back room. Newton pleaded for Taylor not to shoot him in front of the little girl, but Taylor shot him in the head. He tried to kill the girl but the gun jammed, so he locked her in the room and the trio drove away.

“She had the gun turned on her,” said Michael Hunt, an assistant Jackson County prosecutor who worked on the case. “It didn’t fire. If it had fired, we’d have had a double homicide.”

Hunt said the child’s testimony at trial was pivotal in the death sentence.

“You can imagine what a horrible crime this was, but when you see it coming out of a young person like that, it was hard to listen to,” Hunt said.

Taylor was arrested a week after the crime when police responded to a tips hotline call.

Court appeals claimed the death penalty for Taylor was unfair for several reasons.

Taylor’s original jury deadlocked and a judge sentenced him to death. When that was thrown out, an all-white jury gave Taylor, who was black, the death sentence.

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that only a jury could impose a death sentence. Taylor’s lawyers contended that a Missouri Supreme Court ruling after the U.S. Supreme Court decision led the state to commute at least 10 other death sentences for inmates sentenced by a judge to life in prison — everyone except Taylor.

Attorney Elizabeth Carlyle said Taylor essentially was penalized for successfully appealing his first conviction.

The clemency request to Nixon said Taylor turned his life around in prison, becoming a devout Christian who helped other prisoners. The petition also cited abuse Taylor suffered as a child, saying his mother began giving him alcohol when he was 5 and that he later became addicted to alcohol and drugs.

TIME Crime

Missouri Governor Declares State of Emergency Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

Demonstrators yell "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" alongside a highway overpass to voice their opinions as the area awaits a grand jury decision on Nov. 15, 2014 near Ferguson, Missouri.
Demonstrators yell "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" alongside a highway overpass to voice their opinions as the area awaits a grand jury decision on Nov. 15, 2014 near Ferguson, Missouri. Joe Raedle—`Getty Images

Activates National Guard to keep the peace if there is unrest following the Grand Jury's decision

Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Missouri on Monday, in anticipation of the public response to a grand jury decision about whether Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson will be charged in the August 9 killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

Citing the “possibility of expanded unrest,” Nixon announced that the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the St. Louis County Police Department, and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department would operate together as a “Unified Command” to keep the peace in the event that the findings of the investigation provoke further violence in Ferguson and St. Louis.

He also mobilized the National Guard and any reserve officers into active service, and specified that this Unified Command could expand to other jurisdictions to protect civil rights and public safety. This means that even though there are 90 municipalities in St. Louis County, the Unified Command would have equal authority in all of them (as opposed to individual police forces claiming authority over individual towns.)

Legal experts say that the move, while unusual, could help Nixon maintain a sense of order if the protests lead to the sort of tumult that followed the days and weeks after Brown’s August death. “You’ve got all these various civil authorities, but they’re not in any way a unified command structure,” says Michael Wolff, Dean of the Saint Louis University School of Law and former chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court. He also noted that this may help avoid repeating the mistakes made in the the police’s response to the initial Ferguson protests, which “showed poor command structure, and poor discipline.”

“If there is unrest, he won’t be coming late to what’s going on,” says Peter Joy, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis. “And it’s a signal that if there is violence, there will be a coordinated response.”

Many protesters have been trying to plan a coordinated response in the event that Wilson is not charged. The possibility that the grand jury would not deliver an indictment and the fears about what could result have led to heightened tensions in the St. Louis region, as Kristina Sauerwein reported for TIME.

At the Metro Shooting Supplies gun shop in Bridgeton, the sense of threat has driven record sales, including more than 100 handguns and other weapons sold over a three-day stretch ending last Sunday. Shooting lessons are booked through 2015. “You can literally see the fear in people’s eyes,” says owner Steve King. “People are anticipating far worse than last time.”

Most groups are emphasizing a nonviolent response, but Nixon’s declaration of a state of emergency underscores the potential worst case scenarios. Nixon’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“If there are peaceful protests as a result of whatever the decision is, then it’s a better-safe-than-sorry situation,” Joy says. I hope in hindsight this is looked at as a precaution that didn’t end up being necessary.”

Read next: U.S. Cities Brace for Unrest As Ferguson Grand Jury Decision Nears

TIME Crime

3 Key Takeaways From Amnesty International’s Ferguson Report

Ferguson St. Louis Protests
Police officers in riot gear hold a line as they watch demonstrators protest in St. Louis on Oct. 12, 2014. Joshua Lott—AFP/Getty Images

It's the first time the human rights group has documented abuses inside the U.S.

Correction appended Oct. 24, 1:25 p.m. ET

Amnesty International made headlines in August when the international human rights organization dispatched a team of observers and advocates to document the unrest in Ferguson, Mo. that followed the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, the first time a delegation of its kind had investigated human rights abuses in the United States.

The resulting report was released Friday. It doesn’t shine any light on the altercation between Brown and police officer Darren Wilson or what led Wilson to kill the unarmed teenager. But there’s value in reading about the events in Ferguson through the lens of human rights. Here are three key claims made in the Amnesty report:

1) Lethal force was not justified

The report acknowledges that there are conflicting accounts of the physical altercation between Brown and Wilson, but says that none of them rise to the level that would have justified lethal force. “International standards provide that law enforcement officers should only use force as a last resort…Irrespective of whether there was some kind of physical confrontation between Michael Brown and the police officer, Michael Brown was unarmed and thus unlikely to have presented a serious threat.” But several witnesses testified in front of a grand jury that Brown and Wilson did struggle over Wilson’s gun, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. If Brown had tried to take Wilson’s gun, as some evidence suggests, then Wilson may not have broken the law.

2) Ferguson police violated the human right to peaceful assembly

Amnesty notes that according to international law, the right of peaceful assembly is a basic human right. The report notes that law enforcement imposed several restrictions on this right, including a curfew and the “keep walking” rule, which was imposed on Aug. 18 to deter groups from massing. The report says that in the 12 days after Michael Brown’s death, 132 people were arrested for “failing to disperse.” The Amnesty delegation also condemned the use of tear gas and rubber bullets to break up protests, and the threats made against journalists and legal observers. But the protests in Ferguson weren’t always peaceful– there were reports of protesters shooting at police cars, throwing bottles at police, and numerous other violent encounters.

3) There is not enough data on police shootings

The report calls for data on police shootings to be broken out by race, ethnicity and gender in order to give a complete picture of how many black men are killed by police per year. Amnesty also recommends that Congress pass the End Racial Profiling Act and the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act.

You can read the full Executive Summary of the report here: Ferguson Report Executive Summary

The original version of this story misstated the nature of Amnesty International’s work in the United States. The group has researched human rights abuses in the United States previously. This August was the first time the organization sent a delegation of observers, advocates and trainers to document unrest anywhere in the United States.

TIME Crime

State Senator Arrested in Ferguson Protest

Video shows her leading protest chants

A Missouri state senator was arrested during a protest in Ferguson Monday night following the continued outrage over a white officer’s shooting of an unarmed black teen in August.

State Senator Jamilah Nasheed, who represents sections of St. Louis, can be seen leading a protest chant in footage aired on local news channel KSDK, Reuters reports. “No Justice,” she yells in the video. The crowd replies, “No peace.”

On Aug. 9, police officer Darren Wilson shot multiple times and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. The town has been on edge with near-daily protests since news first broke, but tensions have run especially high in recent days as a grand jury weighs whether to indict Wilson.

[Reuters]

TIME Crime

See Pictures of the Weekend of Protests Around St. Louis

More acts of civil disobedience are planned beginning on Monday

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in and around St. Louis over the weekend, calling for justice after two racially charged police shootings since August.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that several days of demonstrations called “Ferguson October,” which marked just over two months since unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer, gave way to a sit-in at St. Louis University during a rally for Vonderrit Myers Jr., another black teenager who was fatally shot on Oct. 8. Police say Myers fired at them first, but his family insists he was unarmed. Additional acts of civil disobedience are planned beginning on Monday.

[St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

TIME justice

Ferguson Protesters Arrested in First Confrontation With Police in Weeks

A police officer observes the crowd gathered in protest the police shooting of teenager Mike Brown, Ferguson, Missouri, Sept. 29, 2014.
A police officer observes the crowd gathered in protest the police shooting of teenager Mike Brown, Ferguson, Missouri, Sept. 29, 2014. James Cooper—Demotix/Corbis

A new round of clashes after nightly taunts by demonstrators

Police in Ferguson, Missouri arrested about half a dozen protesters Thursday night after days of late-night demonstrations and repeated acts of civil disobedience, marking an end to a period of relative calm after weeks of violent clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement after the August shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.

Those arrested included members of an activist group known as the Millennials as well as a freelance journalist for CNN, The Washington Post reports. It’s not clear on what charges the protesters were arrested, but according to the Post, the demonstrators had been staging confrontations with the police for days, linking arms to block the street or loudly chanting in the streets well past an 11 p.m. noise ordinance.

On Thursday, police reportedly asked the group to quiet down, which sparked only louder chants and an eventual clash between law enforcement and demonstrators, reports the Post.

[The Washington Post]

TIME justice

Feds Seek to Patch Up Relations Between Cops and Communities

Justice Department's $4.5 million program is a response to the crisis in Ferguson

The Justice Department is launching a program to improve relations between communities and the law enforcement officers that police them, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday.

The $4.5 million program is part of the department’s response to the crisis in Ferguson, which shed light on the deep-seated tensions between the police and urban and black communities.

“Each of us has an essential obligation – and a unique opportunity – to ensure fairness, eliminate bias, and build community engagement,” said Attorney General Holder.

Through the program, titled the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, law enforcement agencies will be provided training on “bias reduction and procedural fairness,” according to the Department of Justice.

TIME Health Care

What Missouri’s New Abortion Law Means for Women

Missouri Abortion
Elizabeth War looks over a gathering of her fellow abortion opponents in the Missouri Capitol rotunda in Jefferson City, Mo. on Sept. 10, 2014. Jeff Roberson—AP

A 72-hour waiting period could have big consequences

A new Missouri law imposing a 72-hour waiting period on women seeking abortions could decrease the abortion rate in the state, increase the abortion rate elsewhere and drive up expenses for women terminating pregnancies.

The Missouri legislature voted late on Sep. 10 to override Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of the law, which requires women seeking abortions to have an in-person appointment at Missouri’s only abortion clinic, wait three days and return for the procedure itself. Abortion rights advocates say the 72-hour waiting period, which is similar to policies in Utah and South Dakota, makes accessing abortion far too arduous and intrudes into women’s personal health care decisions. Anti-abortion advocates say it gives women time to fully consider their decisions and could reduce the number of terminated pregnancies.

Reliable data on how Missouri’s new law will affect either the abortion rate or when in their pregnancies women choose to have them does not exist, but researchers have found that 24-hour waiting periods, which are law in more than 20 other states, cause women to undergo abortions later in pregnancies and travel to other states instead. This is according to an analysis of existing research compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights. In a 2009 paper, Guttmcher researchers explained that after Mississippi imposed a 24-hour waiting period in 1992, the number of abortions in the state fell 22 percent and the proportion of women who underwent abortions after 12 weeks gestation increased 17 percent. After accounting for women who traveled to other states to access abortion services, the researchers said 11 to 13 percent of women who would have had abortions did not get them due to the 24-hour waiting period law.

In addition to affecting the timing, location and rate of abortions, waiting periods also increase costs for some women who are forced to travel to clinics at least twice. In a state like Missouri, which has a single abortion clinic, some women will have to travel long distances twice or spend three or four days away from home to make time for an initial appointment, the waiting period and abortion itself. In addition to the basic travel expenses, such trips can include additional costs in the form of childcare and time off from work.

One recent study, which has not been published, examined the impact of Utah’s 72-hour waiting period. In a 2013-2014 survey of 500 women who showed up for their initial counseling visits, researchers found that when contacted three weeks later, 85 percent of women had had abortions. Of those who had not, some had miscarried, others were still seeking abortions and some decided to continue their pregnancies. The rate of women who decided against having abortions was similar to the rates in other studies of locations without waiting periods, according to the study’s lead author, Sarah Roberts, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

In addition, Roberts says the study found that the average period of time between the first visit for women in Utah and the abortions was eight days, not three, due to the need to arrange logistics like lodging, transportation and childcare. She says the average additional cost imposed by Utah’s mandatory 72-hour waiting period was $40 to $50, equal to about 2.5 percent of monthly household income for women in the survey. “The costs are not insignificant,” she says, particularly for low-income women. Roberts says the Utah study also found that the three-day waiting period forced women to tell more people about their abortions, in the course of making arrangements.

As for Missouri, Roberts says it’s impossible to accurately predict what the new waiting period will mean for women in the state. But, she says,“based on our data, I would continue to expect that women would face additional financial costs. Making arrangements to go back would probably force women to tell more people about their abortions.” And, she says, “we would expect additional delay.”

TIME Disease

Hundreds of Children Stricken by Rare Respiratory Illness in Colorado

The illness appears to almost uniquely target children

Just as schools usher in a new group of students, plus all of their germs, hundreds of children in Denver have come down with an unusual and severe respiratory illness that has ailed communities across the U.S. in recent weeks.

Officials at Children’s Hospital Colorado told the Denver Post that the hospital has treated more than 900 children for the illness since Aug. 18. Similar outbreaks have been reported in geographic clusters around the Midwest this summer, including in St. Louis.

Health officials believe that the sickness is related to a rare virus called human enterovirus 68 (HEV68), the Post says. HEV68, first seen in California in 1962, and an unwelcome but highly infrequent visitor to communities worldwide since then, is a relative of the virus linked to the common cold (human rhinoviruses, or HRV), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

HEV68, which almost uniquely affects children, tends to first cause cold-like symptoms, including body aches, sneezing and coughing. These mild complaints then worsen into life-threatening breathing problems that are all the more dangerous to children with asthma. Since viruses do not respond to antibiotics, hospitals have treated the illness with asthma therapies.

Although extremely unpleasant, no deaths have so far been reported from this summer’s outbreak.

There is no vaccine for HEV68, and health officials are encouraging the same practices that guard against the common cold: keep your hands to yourself, and wash them often.

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