Fla., Ga., Mo. push ahead on execution
ST. LOUIS — With Florida holding the nation's third execution in less than 24 hours on Wednesday, some death penalty states — particularly in the South — appear unfazed by the recent furor over how lethal injections are carried out.
A botched execution seven weeks ago in Oklahoma amplified a national debate about the secretive ways many states obtain lethal injection drugs from loosely regulated compounding pharmacies. Before Tuesday, nine executions were stayed or delayed — albeit some for reasons not related to the drug question.
Amid the court battles, many pro-death penalty states kept pushing to resume executions, including the three that scheduled lethal injections during the quick burst this week. Georgia and Missouri executed prisoners about an hour apart late Tuesday and early Wednesday, and John Ruthell Henry received a lethal injection in Florida and was pronounced dead at 7:43 p.m.
Florida executed the 63-year-old, convicted of killing his estranged wife and her son, despite claims that he is mentally ill and intellectually disabled.
Austin Sarat, professor of jurisprudence and political science at Amherst College, said there has been a regional divide when it comes to how quickly states are returning to the business of putting prisoners to death.
“I think what you're going to see is kind of a division where some areas, some states, predominantly in the South, are going to dig in their heels,” Sarat said. “Other states are going to proceed more cautiously and impose, if not an official moratorium, more of a de facto moratorium until things get sorted out.”
The executions in Georgia and Missouri were the first since April 29, when Oklahoma prison officials halted the process because drugs weren't being administered properly into the veins of inmate Clayton Lockett. He died of a heart attack 43 minutes later.
Lawyers for death row inmates have cited concerns that what happened in Oklahoma could be repeated, and they've challenged the secretive ways many states obtain lethal injection drugs.