ST. LOUIS — A federal appeals court on Monday denied a stay of execution for a condemned Missouri man scheduled to die later this week.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to halt the execution of William Rousan. The appeal cited concerns that Missouri's execution drug, obtained from an unnamed compounding pharmacy, potentially could cause pain and suffering for the inmate. The appeals court ruled without comment.
Rousan's attorney, Philip Horwitz, said he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. A clemency petition also has been filed with Gov. Jay Nixon. A spokesman for Nixon says the governor has not yet made a decision on the petition.
Rousan, 57, is scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for killing a southeast Missouri farm couple in 1993.
"The Missouri statutes regarding the drug are secretive, and we think they should be open and public," Horwitz said.
Missouri has executed one death row inmate each month since November. Another execution, of Russell Bucklew, is scheduled for May 21. Only Texas, with seven executions, and Florida, with four, have had more executions than Missouri's three so far in 2014.
Rousan was sentenced to death for killing 62-year-old Grace Lewis of rural St. Francois County in 1993. He was sentenced to life in prison for killing her 67-year-old husband, Charles. The killings were part of a plot to steal cattle from the Lewis farm near Bonne Terre — just a couple of miles from the prison where Rousan faces execution.
Court records indicated that Rousan was the ringleader of the plot, accompanied by his then-16-year-old son, Brent, and his younger brother, Robert.
The three parked about 2 miles from the Lewis farm on Sept. 21, 1993, hiked through the woods and staked out the home. As Charles Lewis was on a riding mower cutting the grass, Brent Rousan shot him six times, killing him. When Grace Lewis heard the gunshots and stepped outside, Brent Rousan shot her, too.
She went inside, but William Rousan put a garment bag over her head and carried her outside, then told his son: "Finish her off." Brent Rousan then fired a single shot into her head.
The men stole two cows, a truck, a VCR, jewelry and other items.
They escaped capture for nearly a year, burying the bodies on the nearby farm where William Rousan lived. Months later, a sister of the Rousan brothers sold a VCR to a pawn shop. It had been stolen from the Lewises and led police to the Rousans.
William Rousan was arrested one day short of the anniversary of the killings, on Sept. 20, 1994. He was the only one of the three to receive a death sentence.
Brent Rousan is serving a sentence of life without parole. Robert Rousan pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and served seven years in prison.
Missouri is among several states that have been purchasing execution drugs from compounding pharmacies while refusing to name the suppliers. The states claim the process must be secretive in part to protect suppliers from harassment, even threats.
Critics say that without knowing who makes the execution drug or if it has been tested, it is impossible to guarantee that something couldn't go wrong during the execution.
In Missouri's five previous executions using compounded pentobarbital, none of the inmates has shown outward signs of distress. But January executions in Ohio and Oklahoma raised concerns that the inmates suffered in the moments before they died.
States have turned to compounding pharmacies because major drugmakers no longer sell drugs for use in executions.