Missouri Is Clearing Its Death Row With Startling Efficiency

By William Peacock, Esq. on August 07, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Missouri doesn't use the two-drug protocol that left a man in Ohio gasping and convulsing during his execution, and stretched an Arizona man's execution to nearly two hours. And it doesn't use propofol, the drug that killed Michael Jackson, though it tried. (The drug manufacturer threatened to stop selling it stateside before Missouri backed down.)

Since October, the Show-Me State uses only one drug, pentobarbital, which it obtains from a compound pharmacy at $11,000 a hit. And so far, it works: seven executions this year so far, which according to Time, is a record-setting pace for the state.

Clearing the Backlog

The full year record, according to Time, is nine, the number of Missouri inmates executed in 1999. But recently, thanks to the drug shortage that has led to Arizona and Ohio's faulty science experiments, Missouri's execution rate had slowed: two inmates total from 2006 to 2012.

Now? Missouri is tied with Texas and Florida for the 2014 lead at seven executions apiece. According to Time, since 1976 (when the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty), Missouri comes in fifth, at 76 executions, behind Texas (511), Oklahoma (111), Virginia (110) and Florida (88).

On Deaf Ears

Of course, if you've been following the lethal injection controversy over the past couple of years, you've heard about challenges in courts nationwide to compounding pharmacy drugs, untested drug protocols, and drugs obtained from secret sources.

The two-hour execution in Arizona only happened after a Ninth Circuit panel stayed the execution, en banc was denied over 11 judges' dissent, and the Supreme Court issued a brief order reversing the panel's decision.

And here in the Eighth Circuit? Even on the rare occasion when the Eighth Circuit steps in and grants a stay (over the use of this exact compound pharmacy-sourced drug), the Supreme Court steps in and reverses. For the most part, as Time notes, the Eighth Circuit actually goes the other way and reverses trial court orders halting executions.

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Show Me State Efficiency

But no institution, court or state, seems as eager to proceed as Missouri itself. Earlier this year, we wrote about two executions the state pulled off while courts were still considering the inmates' appeals. They couldn't even wait a few more days or weeks for the legal process to play out.

And back in June, state officials came up with another idea to speed up the execution process: start up a compounding pharmacy and make their own execution drugs. State legislators are considering the proposal, which, admittedly, is better than buying an expired brown bag special out of the back of an unlicensed London pharmacy.

Get 'er done Missuruh. You're making this native son proud.

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