WHAT OTHERS SAY: Halt the executions, Missouri

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST

While attention has centered on Missouri’s nefarious methods of obtaining execution chemicals, the state has been pushing the limits of decency and legality in another respect.

The last three prisoners put to death in Missouri — Joseph Franklin, Allen Nicklasson and Herbert Smulls — were executed before their final appeals were exhausted.

Legal experts and judges have rebuked the state for its hurry.

“Missouri violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the long litany of cases warning Missouri to stay executions while federal review of an inmate’s constitutional challenge is still pending,” 8th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Kermit Bye wrote after the Nicklasson execution.

With stunning arrogance, one of Attorney General Chris Koster’s deputies, David Hansen, told a legislative committee that his office was responding to a strategy of death row inmates to file enough motions for stays of executions to outlast the time spans of death warrants.

That’s not the attorney general’s call. The courts decide when the appeals process has run its course. If Koster is concerned about an inmate’s defense team prolonging the process, he can petition the U.S. Supreme Court to refuse to accept further motions.

Missouri is playing a callous and dangerous game. If Gov. Jay Nixon continues to refuse to declare a moratorium on executions, the state must at least show respect for the judicial process.

Copyright Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.

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