Convicts in Florida, Georgia and Missouri were set to die within a 24 hour period for the first time since the botched lethal injection in Oklahoma last month
Updated on 06/18/2014 at 12.01 a.m.
(JACKSON, Ga.) — A Georgia inmate became the 1st executed convict in the U.S. since an execution-gone-awry in Oklahoma led to a defacto national moratorium on the practice seven weeks ago. The state used one drug in the execution.
A group of convicts were set to be put to death in three state over the next 24 hours.
With Georgia’s inmate executed, the other convicted killers set to die by lethal injection are from Florida and Missouri.
The states had all refuse to reveal the source of their the drug cocktail to be used in the executions or if those drugs have ben tested. Lawyers for two of the men have challenged the secrecy surrounding the drugs.
States with the death penalty have long grappled with how to continue executing prisoners in a humane way. After the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in late May, human rights activists have upped the urgency of their call to force states to release information about the drugs used to kill prisoners.
In Georgia Tuesday night, Marcus Wellons was scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. ET for raping and murdering his 15-year-old neighbor in 1989. However, two hours later, the Associated Press reported that “officials were waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on an appeal.”
Just after midnight CT, John Winfield, who shot three women in the head in 1996 killing two and blinding the third, is scheduled to be executed in Missouri.
Finally, John Ruthell Henry is set to die at 6:00 p.m. ET in Florida on Wednesday. Henry was convicted of stabbing his estranged wife to death just before Christmas, 1985, then murdering her five-year-old son from a previous marriage days later. Testing has shown that Henry has an IQ of 78, the AP reported. The state says that anyone with an IQ over 70 does not qualify as mentally disabled.
Missouri’s attorney general wants his state to manufacture execution drugs, but the cost and logistics might not be worth it
Missouri thinks it might have an answer to the problems surrounding lethal injections: establish a state-run pharmacy.
In a speech to the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis late last month, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster called for a “state-operated, DEA-licensed laboratory to produce the execution chemicals in our state,” and urged the legislature to fund the country’s first pharmacy specifically for carrying out lethal injection.
By manufacturing its own drugs, the state could, in theory, get around several difficulties in administering executions. It wouldn’t have to rely on compounding pharmacies, which are often kept anonymous and are unregulated by the federal government. It would be able to have a consistent and adequate supply of drugs, helping the state avoid changes to its drug protocol and the use of drugs in untested combinations. And most importantly, the state might be able to avoid future lawsuits regarding the origins of lethal injection drugs, which have put a halt to many executions around the country—not to mention troublesome executions like that of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma and Dennis McGuire in Ohio. Meanwhile, the Associated Press, the Guardian and three other news organizations have sued Missouri in an attempt to get the state Department of Corrections to reveal its drug sources. But even considering all that, the cost and sheer logistics of building a pharmacy from the ground up to manufacture a handful of drugs may not be worth it.
“There’s no way I could justify the cost on something like that” if the state is only using it to produce just one or two drugs, says Ernie Gates, president of Gates Healthcare Associates, which consults and advises pharmacies. “The commitment would have to be significant.”
The suggestion by Missouri’s attorney general comes as states around the U.S. struggle to figure out how to keep executing by lethal injection. This year alone, 22 executions have been stayed, largely due to lawsuits involving the drugs being used and the secrecy surrounding them. The Lockett execution went so poorly in April that it elicited a response from President Obama, who called it “deeply troubling” and said he would ask the attorney general to look into the method’s problems.
Like most states with the death penalty, Missouri is struggling to obtain execution drugs. A few years ago, a number of pharmaceutical companies stopped manufacturing drugs for lethal injection, so many prisons turned to compounding pharmacies, which are not federally regulated and loosely monitored at the state level. Many prison systems and state legislatures have worked to protect the anonymity of those pharmacies, which fear consumer backlash if it becomes known that they’re involved in executions. The use of compounded drugs from unknown sources has triggered a series of lawsuits in which inmates are challenging the constitutionality of their executions, arguing that it’s impossible to know whether the drugs are safe and effective if they don’t know where they were made.
No state currently makes its own drugs for executions and instead relies on private drugmakers. Making their own would likely be an involved undertaking, the cost alone easily reaching $1 million, Gates says—not to mention the money needed to regularly staff pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, who often earn six-figure salaries.
Gates says the state would have to abide by United States Pharmacopeia guidelines, which are nationally followed standards for the establishment of pharmacies and ensure a pharmacy’s sterility. The state would need to locate a facility that doesn’t have high amounts of mold or mildew in order to keep the space sterile while also requiring its own air conditioning and heating systems, as well as high-efficiency air filters keep the drugs from becoming tainted.
Many compounding pharmacies are also often built with redundancies—for example, another room will be built in case the main “clean room,” the sterile area where drugs are mixed, becomes unfit for manufacturing.
Gates says there’s no reason a compounding pharmacy couldn’t be built on prison grounds, but it may not be worth the cost if only a few drugs are being produced.
“It’s not just about building a room,” Gates says. “You have to have a real understanding of what you hope to accomplish.”
Since 2011, Missouri has only executed seven inmates, four of whom were executed this year and most given just one drug, pentobarbital.
A state-run pharmacy also may not halt legal challenges surrounding death row inmates. While the state would seek approval from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for its pharmacy, the drugs themselves would not be overseen by the Food and Drug Administration, which doesn’t approve drugs for use in lethal injection.
DEA approval “does not make the drugs safer,” says Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “Only legal.”
Many death penalty opponents say that compounded drugs are unsafe because they’re only loosely regulated by states. A compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts has been linked to a meningitis outbreak resulting in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries.
“[A state-run pharmacy] would be more transparent than the currency secrecy about sources,” Dieter says, “but this implies that the qualifications of those preparing the drugs be revealed in a way that can be checked, and that the drugs be independently verified by an accredited and identified lab.”
Red Robin has told up to 5,000 people who had visited their Springfield location in mid-May to contact the state health department after learning that an employee at the restaurant had Hepatitis A and was possibly contagious
Correction appended: May 23.
Up to 5,000 people may have eaten at a fast food restaurant in Springfield, Missouri, where an employee had hepatitis A and was possibly contagious.
Food chain Red Robin told people who visited their Springfield location in mid-May to contact the health department for more information about the situation, CNN reports.
The restaurant chain said the employee in question last worked on May 16 and that the restaurant had been deemed safe after a county health department check. However, county health officials said customers should watch out for symptoms including fever, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine and clay-colored bowel movements.
“It scared me because my husband has been sick,” Andrea Hall, a Red Robin customer, told CNN. “And a lot of his symptoms of his matched. A red flag just went off and I was like what do I do from here.”
Every worker at Springfield’s Red Robin location has been treated for the illness. The county health department will also run a two-day vaccination clinic nearby for concerned customers.
Hepatitis A is an illness which inflames the liver and limits its ability to function. The disease can be transmitted by food, water or by contact with someone who’s infected. Mild cases do not require treatment. Most people recover completely from the sickness, although severe cases can be fatal.
Correction: The original version of this story misstated the location of the restaurant tied to the potential hepatitis A exposure. It is in Springfield, Missouri.
Welcome to #theBrief, the four stories to know about right now—from the editors of TIME+ READ ARTICLE
Here are the stories TIME is watching this Wednesday, May 21:
- Establishment Republicans came out on top of GOP primaries after three of five states pass over Tea Party candidates to re-elect incumbents.
- The Supreme Court stayed what would have been the nation’s first lethal injection after Oklahoma’s botched execution in late April.
- Iranian officials arrest 6 young people for posting a dancing tribute video of Pharrell’s song “Happy” to YouTube called “Happy in Tehran.“
- Thanks to late storms and lingering cold, Aspen opens its ski slopes for Memorial Day weekend.
The Brief is published daily on weekdays.
Russell Bucklew's lethal injection, scheduled for 12:01 Wednesday morning, will be the first since the April 29 botched execution of Clayton Lockett
A federal judge denied a request to stay the execution of Missouri death row inmate Russell Bucklew on Monday. Bucklew’s lawyers had argued a rare birth defect would make his pending lethal injection extremely painful and therefore unconstitutional.
Bucklew is a convicted murderer and rapist with a medical condition that causes tumors, which cause bleeding and difficulty breathing, to grow in his head and neck. As a result of the tumors, his lawyers say the lethal injection drugs will fail to circulate and Bucklew will end up choking to death. Bucklew reportedly asked that his execution be videotaped and used as evidence in a civil lawsuit in the state. NBC reports that request was also denied.
His lawyers said in a statement issued Monday that they would “immediately appeal” the judges decision. Bucklew’s execution is scheduled for 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, May 21. His execution will be the first since the botched lethal injection in Oklahoma on April 29.
“We will immediately appeal the denial of a stay of execution because the courts must fully consider Mr. Bucklew’s claim that he will die a prolonged tortuous death in violation of the Eighth Amendment during his execution,” his lawyers said in a statement.
The Guardian, the Associated Press and three local newspapers have joined forces in the growing controversy over death-penalty transparency. The lawsuit challenges Missouri's refusal — new as of October last year — to disclose the source of execution drugs
A group of five newspapers announced Thursday they’re suing the Missouri department of corrections to force the state to reveal where it’s acquiring controversial drugs being used to execute death-row inmates.
“Historically, information about the drugs used by [the department of corrections] in lethal injection executions was routinely made available to the public. In October 2013, DOC unilaterally changed course and began to deny all public access to this information,” the suit alleges. “Without this information, the public cannot provide meaningful oversight of the executions that the state of Missouri conducts in its name.”
The suit is the latest volley in an ongoing tug-of-war between inmates, media, transparency advocates and death-penalty states over whether governments can keep secret the identities of businesses that provide drugs used to execute convicts on death row. European restrictions on exporting drugs used in executions have caused supplies to dwindle in recent years, prompting states to seek alternatives elsewhere that may be to blame for a series of botched executions of late. States have resisted calls to reveal the source of the alternative drugs.
According to the Guardian, 13 states have changed their laws and statutes to protect drugmakers’ anonymity. But so far, legal challenges to make lethal-injection executions more transparent have failed. In Georgia, a challenge to the state’s shield law is awaiting a decision by the state supreme court. In Texas a district court rejected an appeal regarding its secrecy law involving death-row inmate Robert James Campbell. (His execution was later stayed after his lawyers successfully argued that Campbell’s low IQ made him ineligible for capital punishment.)
In Oklahoma the state supreme court ruled its secrecy law constitutional after months of back-and-forth within the state’s judicial system, allowing the eventual execution of death-row inmate Clayton Lockett to go forward. The execution, which took place a few days after that decision, went awry as Lockett jerked and twitched after prison officials had trouble locating a vein to administer lethal-injection drugs. Lockett eventually died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the execution began.
The lawsuit brought by Associated Press, the Guardian, the Kansas City Star, the Springfield News Leader and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch challenges Missouri’s refusal — new as of October last year — to disclose the source of execution drugs. Missouri has refused to disclose its source on the grounds that pharmacies that provide them are part of the execution team and thus protected under the state’s “Black Hood Law.”
A total of 41 inmates currently await execution on Missouri’s death row.
Bill Paxton never could have predicted this
You thought the highly underrated 1996 action movie Twister taught you everything there was to know about tornadoes, but you were wrong. Meet the firenado, which is exactly what it sounds like: a tornado that sucks up surrounding fire, creating a swirling, burning cone of disaster. The above firenado was captured on Instagram by Janae Copelin in Chillicothe, Missouri. No injuries were reported.
Search and rescue teams are scouring the rubble in Arkansas and Oklahoma after the year's worst tornado outbreak yet left at least 16 people dead across three states and caused widespread destruction of property
Updated 1:26 p.m. ET
Tornadoes tore through the American Midwest and South on Sunday, killing at least 18 people in three states—14 in central Arkansas, one in Oklahoma in a cyclone’s wake and one in Iowa.
Authorities are reporting that a tornado touched down 10 miles west of the Arkansas state capital Little Rock, causing widespread devastation in the suburban communities of Mayflower and Vilonia. Authorities initially said 16 people had died in Arkansas but later revised that to 14 because two people were counted twice, the Associated Press reports.
“What I am seeing, it is a lot of damage. I’ve been listening to the rescue folks. They’re saying people have to be extracted from vehicles,” Vilonia Mayor James Firestone told CNN. “It looks pretty bad. From what I understand, there has been a subdivision that’s been leveled.”
The tornado was reportedly on and off the ground for a total of 80 miles, cutting large swaths of destruction to the west and north of Little Rock.
“It sounded like a constant rolling, roaring sound,” Mayflower resident Becky Naylor told the Associated Press. “Trees were really bending, and the light poles were actually shaking and moving. That’s before we shut the door, and we’ve only shut the door to the storm cellar two times.”
Just two hours before the tornado touched down in Arkansas, another cyclone unleashed havoc farther to the west in the tiny town of in Quapaw, Okla., where one resident died and six were injured.
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) April 28, 2014
Tornadoes were sighted in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri throughout Sunday as heavy storm cells ripped across the Great Plains.
Meteorologists are forecasting that severe weather, including tornadoes, hail and heavy winds could continue to pound the Midwest and Southeast throughout the beginning of the week. According to the Weather Channel, conditions are ripe for more tornadoes from east Texas across large swaths of the Plains up into Illinois.
Marionville Mayor Dan Clevenger, who called himself a friend of accused Kansas City shooter Frazier Glenn Cross, resigned Monday after local aldermen voted to begin the impeachment process due to his anti-Semitic statements
A Missouri mayor resigned Monday following strong community backlash against anti-Semitic comments he made in the wake of Kansas City’s fatal Jewish centers shootings, allegedly committed by a man he once considered a friend.
When news broke that white supremacist Frazier Glenn Cross was accused of fatally shooting three people outside two different Jewish-affiliated facilities, Marionville mayor Dan Clevenger was quick to give interviews about his personal and professional relationship with Cross, who had been a customer at his engine repair shop.
“He’s just a nice guy,” Clevenger, 59, told the Springfield News-Leader in an on camera interview. “You can just tell he gets carried away with those beliefs” — some of which Clevenger conceded to share, although he did not condone Cross’ actions.
Clevenger admitted to writing a letter ten years ago to the editor at the Aurora Advertiser stating, “I am a friend of Frazier Miller helping to spread his warnings. The Jew-run medical industry has succeeded in destroying the United State’s [sic] workforce.”
But last week he told the News-Leader that even though some of his views had evolved, he thought, “The futures market, the federal reserve, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health — ever [sic] time I see that on the news, there are Jewish names and they run things.” He also stated that even though he didn’t think that the “government is run by Jews… There are Jews in government. I mean, Nancy Pelosi, she is a Jew. And she brags about it.” Pelosi is actually Catholic.
These public statements catalyzed a negative outcry among the Marionville community. Cleveger resigned Monday night after the city’s aldermen voted 4-1 to begin an impeachment process.
Clevenger said that it hurt him to hear residents speak out against him.