Missouri Executes|8th Prisoner This Year

     BONNE TERRE, Mo. (CN) – Earl Ringo Jr. this morning became the eighth prisoner executed in Missouri in 2014, the most the state has put to death in 15 years.
     Ringo, 40, was pronounced dead at 12:31 a.m. Wednesday.
     His last words were a quote from the Quran, and he showed no outward signs of distress, according to media reports.
     Ringo’s attorneys tried several last-minute appeals.
     On Tuesday, a federal appeals court heard arguments on a lawsuit filed by 23 death row inmates including Ringo. The suit challenges the secrecy around Missouri’s execution protocol.
     Ringo also claimed racial bias played a role in his sentencing. He was convicted by an all-white jury.
     Another claim stated that Missouri was secretly using the drug midazolam along with pentobarbital.
     Though Missouri Department of Corrections officials said under oath in January that they would not use the drug, St. Louis Public Radio reported on Sept. 2 that nine death-row inmates had been injected with midazolam before being given a lethal dose of pentobarbital.
     Ringo’s lawyer claimed the midazolam was not being used to just calm the nerves of the condemned, but to mask the symptoms of the pentobarbital.
     Corrections officials said midazolam is not part of the actual execution.
     “A sedative is administered to relieve the offender’s level of anxiety in advance of the execution,” the agency said in a statement. “The only lethal chemical the department uses is pentobarbital.”
     Midazolam is used as the lethal agent in other states and was a common thread in botched executions in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona.
     In a 7-3 decision, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Ringo’s request for a stay.
     Judges Kermit E. Bye, Diana E. Murphy and Jane Kelly would have granted the stay, finding the use of midazolam violates Ringo’s 8th Amendment rights which forbid the execution of a prisoner whose incompetence prevents him or her from comprehending the reasons for the penalty or its implications.
     “Recent revelations, disclosed for the first time in the last few days, indicate Missouri has been intravenously injecting large doses of the drug midazolam into its death row inmates before the time at which each inmate’s death warrant becomes valid,” Bye wrote.
     “In several of these executions (namely, Ferguson’s, Middleton’s, and Worthington’s), the intravenous injection of these large doses of midazolam had been preceded by use of the sedative Valium in 5 mg doses a few hours before the execution. In addition, the recent revelations show that Missouri’s intravenous injections of the drug midazolam have escalated over time, beginning with 2 mg doses in the first five executions noted above, increasing to 3 mg doses in the executions of Rousan and Winfield, and increasing to a total of 6 mg in each of the most recent July and August executions of Middleton and Worthington.
     “The unusually large doses of midazolam Missouri has intravenously injected into inmates in its last four executions – just minutes prior to the time when the death warrants become effective – is alarming with respect to the constitutional prohibition against executing a prisoner in a state of incompetency.”
     In one of four orders that the U.S. Supreme Court issued last night on the case, denying Ringo either a stay of execution or writ of certiorari, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said they would have granted the stay.
     Ringo was convicted of killing delivery driver Dennis Poyser and manager-in-training Joanna Baysinger at a Ruby Tuesday in Columbia, Mo. on July 4, 1998.

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