ST. LOUIS — Missouri has become one of the nation's most active death penalty states, with the state's Department of Corrections preparing for its fifth execution this year and seventh since November. The only states that have performed more are Texas, with seven executions in 2014, and Florida, with five so far and a sixth scheduled for Wednesday night.
Who is being executed in Missouri and what was the crime?
John Winfield showed up at his on-again, off-again girlfriend's St. Louis County apartment in September 1996, jealous because she was dating a new man. After a confrontation with the estranged girlfriend, Carmelita Donald, and some of Donald's friends, Winfield shot Donald and two other women in the head. Arthea Sanders and Shawnee Murphy died in the attack. Donald survived but was blinded. Winfield, now 43, was convicted in 1998.
What is Missouri's execution method?
Missouri uses a single-drug injection of the sedative pentobarbital. The state switched to pentobarbital late last year after previously using a three-drug method.
Is there extra scrutiny?
Yes. Missouri is among three states planning executions within a 24-hour period. Marcus Wellons is set to die in Georgia Tuesday night, followed by Winfield at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, then John Ruthell Henry Wednesday night in Florida. The executions would be the first since April 29, when Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett died of a heart attack several minutes after a vein collapsed during his execution.
What is the key issue in the Missouri case?
There are two. Like many states, Missouri refuses to name the supplier of its execution drug and will not say whether the drug has undergone quality testing. Attorneys for Winfield and other death row inmates contend that if they don't know what's in the drug, who made it or where it was tested, it is impossible to know that inmates wouldn't be subjected to agonizing pain during executions that would violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Meanwhile, a federal judge last week granted a stay of execution for Winfield on grounds that a prison worker who wanted to write a letter to the governor in support of clemency was intimidated into not doing so. That stay is under appeal.
Why have states had to seek drugs from new providers?
Death penalty opponents have pressured drug manufacturers, many of them in Europe where capital punishment opposition is strong, to withhold sales of their products from U.S. prison and corrections agencies for use in the death penalty.