July 8, 2013

Due to a shortage of the drugs needed to execute death row inmates by lethal injection, the state of Missouri is considering the constitutional legalities of returning to using the gas chamber. The state’s Attorney General is trying to expedite the execution of two inmates before the last three doses of the lethal cocktail expire.

Missouri has enough propofol on hand for three executions. However, one dose will expire in October of this year and the others will expire in 2015. Currently, Missouri’s executions are on hold while the state supreme court determines whether the propofol execution protocol violates the US Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Missouri is the only state that requires a single drug be used for lethal injections instead of the mixture of drugs used by other states. The new protocol calls for a single dose of propofol that’s 15 times the normal surgical dosage and 21 death row inmates have challenged its use on the grounds that it would cause excruciating pain before the inmate dies.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster (D) is asking judges to allow the state to execute two prisoners before the supply of propofol expires, Allen L. Nicklasson and Joseph Paul Franklin.

Joseph Paul Franklin is a racially-motivated serial killer. Arrested in 1980, he provided detailed confessions to eight murders and received six life sentences in several states and a death sentence in Missouri. All told he was linked either by indictment or confession to 20 murders, six aggravated assaults, 16 bank robberies and two bombings.

Allan Nicklasson was sentenced to death for first-degree murder. When the car the Nicklasson and two friends were using broke down by the side of the road, a Good Samaritan, Richard Drummond, stopped and offered them a ride to the nearest gas station. The three men forced Nicklasson to drive to a secluded area where Nicklasson walked him into the woods, ordered him to kneel, and shot him twice in the back of the head. Drummond’s body was found eight days later.

The shortage of lethal injection chemicals is being felt by prisons across the nation. Pharmaceutical companies in the U.S., Europe, and Asia have refused to sell drugs to US prisons on ethical grounds. Additionally, the European Commission has imposed strict restrictions preventing the importation of most potentially lethal anaesthetics, including pentobarbital and sodium thiopental to the United States.

Koster is also asking for a discussion on restoring the gas chamber, the only other form of execution constitutionally allowed by the state of Missouri.

According to Wikipedia: As of 2010, the last person to be executed in the gas chamber was German national Walter LaGrand, sentenced to death before 1992, who was executed in Arizona on March 3, 1999. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that he could not be executed by gas chamber, but the decision was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. The gas chamber was formerly used in Colorado, Nevada,New Mexico, North Carolina and Oregon. Six states, Arizona, California, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri and Wyoming, authorize lethal gas if lethal injection cannot be administered, the condemned committed their crime before a certain date, or the condemned chooses to die in the gas chamber.

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