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Death Row Inmate Who Compared Governor Nixon to Hitler Executed, First Since Arizona

Categories: Death Penalty

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Michael Worthington
While Missouri candidates and their supporters cheered (or lamented) the results of yesterday's primary elections, the state of Missouri busied itself with ending the life of death row inmate, convicted rapist and murderer Michael Worthington.

He was pronounced dead at 12:11 a.m. this morning, ten minutes after receiving a single dose of the sedative penobarbital. As the drug entered Worthington's system, he appeared to breath heavily for fifteen seconds before closing his eyes for the last time, according the Associated Press.

The fact that Worthington died fairly quickly is significant -- his is the first execution since Arizona's two-drug cocktail took nearly two-hours to kill Joseph Wood, who died gasping "like a fish on shore gulping for air."

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UPDATE: John Middleton Executed, Becomes Sixth Man Put to Death in Missouri in 2014

Categories: Death Penalty

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John Middleton
Update: For the sixth time this year, Governor Jay Nixon has declined to grant clemency to a death-row inmate. John Middleton, a former meth dealer convicted of three grisly murders in 1995, was injected with a dose of pentobarbital at 6:58 p.m. He was pronounced dead at 7:06 p.m.

Middleton had spent nearly two decades in prison since his conviction in 1997. He was 54 years old.

Last night, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Perry halted Middleton's execution less than two hours before the 12:01 a.m. deadline, arguing that his mental-health issues "[have] made a significant threshold showing he is incompetent to be executed," and that he should be granted a legal hearing to evaluate his sanity.

In an affidavit, a psychologist who examined Middleton stated he "lacks a rational understanding of the reason for the execution and is therefore not competent to be executed due to a diagnosis of delusional disorder, a psychotic mental illness."

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Judge Halts Murderer John Middleton's Execution Over Mental Health Concerns

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John Middleton
Breaking update: A Federal District Court judge stayed John Middleton's execution this morning on the basis of his deteriorated mental condition.

In the decision, the judge writes that "This is not a conclusion that he is actually incompetent, it is only a conclusion that he is entitled to a hearing on the issue," though she notes evidence of Middleton being diagnosed with "a variety of mental health disorders" as well as his long history of drug abuse. She adds:

"The affidavits he provided from other inmates and from the counsel who have dealt with him indicate that his mental state has deteriorated over the 17 years he has been incarcerated. The inmates indicate that he frequently talks to people who are not there, and tells stories that could not have had any basis in reality."

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Missouri Gov. Nixon Wins Golden Padlock Award for Excellence in Government Secrecy

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IRE
The Golden Padlock Award.
Update, June 30: Nixon won the Golden Padlock Award over the weekend! Hooray for secrecy! See below for more details. End of update.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is great at keeping secrets. Maybe too good. Last year, after the state was forced to find a new source for its execution drug pentobarbital, he declared the identity of the execution drug supplier a state secret, alarming journalists and citizens alike who say this is a violation of the state's Sunshine Law.

Which brings us to the Golden Padlock Award, a thoroughly tongue-in-cheek honor presented by the Investigative Reporters and Editors, a professional organization of journalists headquartered at Mizzou's School of Journalism.

Yesterday, IRE announced its finalists for the "award," which celebrates the most secretive government agency or individual in the United States. Nixon made the short list, co-nominated alongside Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin.

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Missouri Executes John Winfield: Final Appeals Denied by Supreme Court

Categories: Death Penalty

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John Winfield
Update 12:20 a.m.:A rapid-fire sequence of appeals left John Winfield with no legal recourse to save himself from execution Tuesday night. Winfield was pronounced dead at 12:10 a.m. Wednesday, nine minutes after receiving a lethal dose of pentobarbital.

After the U.S. Supreme Court denied his lawyers' request for a stay of execution around 11:30 p.m., the only thing that could have stopped Winfield's death was his clemency petition on the desk of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

Nixon denied the request for clemency minutes after the Supreme Court decision.

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"He's a Good Person": Daughter of Death Row Inmate Asks Nixon To Spare Her Father's Life

Categories: Death Penalty

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Death-row inmate John Winfield.

John Winfield's only daughter was four years old when, in a jealous rage, he blinded her mother with a gunshot to the head. He shot and killed two other women on that September day in 1996.

Eighteen years later, Symone Winfield is asking the governor commute her father's execution to life in prison. John Winfield is presently scheduled to die by lethal injection on June 18 at 12:01 a.m.

"No one should be able to dictate whether this person lives or dies. He's a good person," says Symone, who believes her father has been rehabilitated by eighteen years behind bars.

Breaking update: A U.S. District judge has just stayed John Winfield's June 18 execution, citing concerns that Missouri Department of Corrections officials obstructed the clemency process. See below for more detail.

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Will John Winfield Be the Fourth Inmate Missouri Executes During A Federal Appeal?

Categories: Death Penalty

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John Winfield.
Missouri's affair with the death penalty has become a monthly ordeal. Six inmates have been executed since November, and it would have been seven if not for a convicted murderer's birth defect.

Now, we've got June 18 to look forward to -- that's the date John Winfield is scheduled to die for murdering two women in 1996. But Winfield's lawyer worries that Missouri will prematurely kill his client before the higher courts can fully review his motions. That's not a baseless worry, either.

"It's only Missouri that has this nasty habit of executing people while state remedies are still pending," says attorney Joesph Luby, who cites three other recent executions where Missouri offed an inmate before receiving the federal go-ahead to do so.

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Attorney General Koster Thinks Missouri Should Make Its Own Execution Drugs

Categories: Death Penalty

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Attorney General Chris Koster.
Should Missouri cut pharmacies out of executions entirely and fund its own lab to develop lethal-injection drug cocktails? Attorney General Chris Koster thinks so.

Speaking to a law conference in Lake of the Ozarks on Thursday, Koster -- a leading Democratic candidate in Missouri's 2016 gubernatorial race -- said executing convicted criminals is too weighty a task to entrust to unregulated pharmacies that profit from executions and operate without any oversight.

"For Missouri to maintain lethal injection as its preferred method of execution, it is my belief the legislature should remove market-driven participants and pressures from the system at the earliest opportunity," Koster said. "As a matter of policy, Missouri should not be reliant on merchants whose identities must be shielded from public view or who can exercise unacceptable leverage over this profound state act."

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