Very early on Wednesday morning, Missouri executed a convicted rapist and murderer. This lethal injection was the first since a drawn-out execution in Arizona last month took nearly two hours. It was also the seventh of the year for Missouri, tying it with Texas and Florida for the most in 2014 and easily dwarfing the number of executions Missouri had been carrying out in recent years.
The state executed Michael Worthington, who was convicted nearly two decades ago of raping and murdering Melinda “Mindy” Griffin, shortly after midnight Wednesday. He was pronounced dead at 12:11 a.m., 10 minutes after the lethal injection process began, according to the Associated Press.
The Supreme Court denied a request for a stay on Tuesday, though four justices said they would have granted the request. Gov. Jay Nixon (D), a death penalty supporter, denied Worthington’s request for clemency on Tuesday.
Missouri has executed 77 people since 1976, the fifth-highest total in that span (trailing Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia and Florida). Between 2006 and 2013, Missouri executed four inmates, a number that could be doubled this year alone if an execution scheduled for next month takes place. This year, Missouri, Texas and Florida have combined to carry out more than three-quarters of the 27 executions that have occurred nationwide. (In June, Missouri and Florida — along with Georgia — carried out three executions in less than 24 hours.)
So far this year, there have been three executions in the country that went awry. The most high-profile of these was in Oklahoma, where Clayton Lockett grimaced and clenched his teeth; his botched execution was called off, but he died a little later. Last month, the execution of Joseph R. Wood III took nearly two hours and required 15 doses of lethal injection drugs, again sparking an official review and criticisms of the death penalty.
After the execution in Arizona, officials with Missouri told The Washington Post that they still planned to execute Worthington using their same drug protocol. Like Texas, Missouri uses the drug pentobarbital — as opposed to the two- or three-drug combinations used by other states. (Arizona, for instance, used a two-drug protocol that had not been used by that state before and had been used only in an Ohio execution that took nearly half an hour.)
Missouri switched to pentobarbital last year because of concerns over the drug propofol. The state’s adoption of a new drug came amid a larger struggle faced by death penalty states to obtain lethal injection drugs. But as part of this new protocol, the state has to obtain the drug or a substitute from sources that hide their identities. This secrecy has been criticized, with news organizations, including the Associated Press and Britain’s Guardian, filing a lawsuit in May to force the state to reveal the source of the drugs.
Chris Koster, the Missouri attorney general, said in a speech this year that the secrecy “may not be prudent.” He suggested that the state should produce its own lethal injection drugs.
Meanwhile, Missouri has carried out the first execution since the lengthy Arizona injection. The state was originally set to carry out the first execution after the botch in Oklahoma, with Missouri nearly executing Russell Bucklew in May before the Supreme Court stepped in and halted the execution because of Bucklew’s health. Instead, Georgia carried out the first execution after the Oklahoma botch. Missouri’s fifth execution of the year occurred about an hour after the Georgia execution.