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Missouri Execution

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Nineteen years ago, Richard Drummond stopped on Interstate 70 to help some people whose car had broken down.  One of them, Allen Nicklasson, repaid the kindness by murdering Mr. Drummond.  Long overdue justice was carried out last night, but it took an order of the Supreme Court.

KTVI has this story.  Gov. Nixon's statement on denial of clemency is here.  Judge Beam's dissent to the Eighth Circuit's grant of a stay explains why the stay was wrongly granted. 

The Supreme Court vacated the stay 5-4, with Justice Ginsburg dissenting joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.

Nicklasson had already had his full set of days in court.  He was trying to exploit Rule 60 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to get around the tight limit on successive petitions imposed by Congress in 1996.  A majority of a three-judge panel would have let him get away with it, a majority of the Eighth Circuit judges refused to stop them, and one less than a majority of the Supreme Court would have also let him get away with it.  That is way too close for comfort.

This is Missouri's second single-drug pentobarbital execution.  The Guardian reports:

Missouri previously used a three-drug method for executions but changed protocols after drugmakers stopped selling the lethal drugs to prisons and corrections departments. The pentobarbital used in Missouri executions comes from an undisclosed compounding pharmacy - the Missouri department of corrections declines to say who makes the drug, or where.

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The stay in this case was atrocious. The denial of Nicklasson's federal habeas petition became final in 2007--over six years before his last minute Martinez claim. He had ample opportunity to make any arguments to reopen the judgment for six years. He didn't. And then some panel majority issues a stay, and doesn't even bother to explain the basis of the stay? The reason the learned judges in the panel majority didn't do so was likely that the decision to issue a stay was clearly indefensible.

Justice Ginsburg's dissenting opinion is a farce. Apparently, Justice Ginsburg felt that because the panel didn't explain itself, the benefit of the doubt should go to the capital murderer who has had a full round of review. This utter silliness apotheosizes the "jurisprudence" of the reconstituted Gang of Four.

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