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Mo. Supreme Court will wait to set execution dates for six inmates

(via Wikimedia Commons/Noahudlis)

Updated 6:03 p.m. with reaction 

The Missouri Supreme Court will not set execution dates for six death row inmates until a court case over the state's new execution protocol is resolved.

The state Department of Corrections announced on May 15 that it was switching from the standard three-drug cocktail to a protocol that used just one drug - the anesthetic propofol. Two days later, attorney general Chris Koster asked the state to set execution dates for 19 inmates. In June, that new protocol was challenged on 8th Amendment grounds.

The state high court today ordered the Department of Corrections to wait until that case is decided before scheduling any executions. Here is the full text of the order:

"The Court has received notice of Zink v. Lombardi, Case No. 12AC-CC00396, currently pending in the Cole County circuit court,which contests the execution protocol adopted by the department of corrections on May 15, 2012. The petition in that case raises issues, among others, concerning whether the newly adopted protocol violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, particularly in light of the protocol's requirement that propofol be administered to cause the death of the offender. Until the parties promptly resolve the issue of the use of propofol as contemplated by the department of corrections' protocol, ruling on the motion to set execution date is premature."

Attorney John William Simon represents 19 inmates who filed suit, including the six men whose execution dates were the subject of today’s ruling.

Simon says the drug is known to cause pain when administered.

“Historically the United States has moved from more painful forms of execution to less painful forms,” Simon said. “The new protocol that we are challenging is a backward step. It is going from the electric chair to burning at the stake.”

Attorney General Chris Koster  released a statement saying he was disappointed with the decision.

Koster said the execution dates would have “imposed deadlines” on the court challenges to the protocol.

The suit is now in federal court.

Learn more about the switch to propofol and the lawsuit filed by the 19 inmates in this report from Joseph Leahy.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Follow Maria Altman on Twitter: @radioaltman

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.
Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.

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