House Committee Has Hearing on Execution Controversy

This week the House Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability held a hearing to delve into issues related to how executions are carried out in the state.  While little new information surfaced, it was valuable to hear from the key persons involved in the controversy.

George Lombardi, Director of the Department of Corrections (DOC), did admit that Missouri was receiving the lethal drugs from an Oklahoma pharmacy, although he never mentioned the pharmacy by name.  He also confirmed that the pharmacy, and the members assisting with executions, were paid in cash, as has been the practice for 25 years.  Lombardi defended the cash payments as necessary to ensure anonymity, without which, no one would be willing to participate in executions.  He felt Missouri’s DOC had been vilified in the execution controversy and noted the department is a national leader in the field of corrections.

Joseph Luby of the Public Interest Litigation Clinic, who represents numerous clients on death row, called the DOC’s actions “sleazy” and indicated that he felt laws had been broken by using a pharmacy that was not licensed in Missouri and by having a DOC employee cross state lines to get the drug. Luby also criticized the state for continuing with the last three executions while appeals were still pending in the court. He noted that a federal judge has criticized Missouri’s litigation practices.

David Hansen with the state attorney general’s office defended the state’s litigation practices. He maintained that in the Smulls’ execution the U.S. Supreme Court had indicated that the execution could proceed.  The appeal still pending in a lower court was similar to a motion the U.S. Supreme Court had already denied.  However, Smulls was executed before the Supreme Court finally denied the motion from the lower court. Hansen indicated that the inmate’s attorneys try to keep the courts busy with litigation to run out the clock so the execution doesn’t take place on the day assigned.


Posted: February 14, 2014

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