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US Supreme Court lifts stay of Missouri execution

Last Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 06:58

Bonne Terre: The US Supreme Court has lifted its stay on the scheduled execution of a Missouri death row inmate whose lawyers had challenged the state`s refusal to disclose where it obtained its lethal injection drug.

The high court issued a temporary stay less than three hours before Herbert Smulls was scheduled to be executed at 12:01 AM yesterday. Smulls, 56, was sentenced to death for killing a suburban St Louis jeweller and badly injuring his wife during a 1991 robbery.

But the court lifted the stay without explanation just before 5 PM, meaning the execution could move forward. Missouri law allows an execution to occur at any time on the day it is scheduled.

Witnesses to the execution had been told to report to the prison by noon.

Smulls` lawyer, Cheryl Pilate, made her final pleas on Tuesday, focusing on the state`s refusal to disclose the name of the compounding pharmacy that produces the pentobarbital used during executions. Pilate contends that the state`s secrecy makes it impossible to know whether the drug could cause pain and suffering during the execution process.
State prison officials maintained that the compounding pharmacy is part of the execution team and therefore its name cannot be released to the public.

St Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch has said talk about the drug was a smoke screen aimed at sparing the life of a cold-blooded killer. He noted that several courts had already ruled against Smulls, including the US District Court in Kansas City and the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals. Governor Jay Nixon denied clemency Tuesday evening.

"It was a horrific crime," McCulloch said on Tuesday. "With all the other arguments that the opponents of the death penalty are making, it`s simply to try to divert the attention from what this guy did, and why he deserves to be executed."

Smulls had already served prison time for robbery when, on July 27, 1991, he went to F&M Crown Jewels and told the owners, Stephen and Florence Honickman, that he wanted to buy a diamond for his fiancée. He took 15-year-old Norman Brown with him.

Once in the shop, Smulls began shooting. The robbers took rings and watches, including those that Florence Honickman was wearing.
She was shot in the side and the arm, and feigned death while lying in a pool of her own blood but survived. Her 51-year-old husband died.

Police stopped Smulls 15 minutes later, and they found stolen jewellery and weapons in his car.

Florence Honickman identified the assailants.

First Published: Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 06:58

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