Federal appeals judges put Missouri back in the execution business yesterday, finding there are sufficient safeguards to protect the condemned against pain from lethal injection, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. State officials pledged to resume the process immediately. Lawyers for Michael Taylor, a Kansas City killer whose appeal is at the center of the case, will reconsideration by the full 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. If that fails, they will seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Lethal injection, the primary method used by 37 of the 38 states with the death penalty, is under assault by critics who claim the combination of drugs used could simultaneously cause excruciating pain and mask it. U.S. District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan Jr. in Kansas City halted all Missouri executions June 26 after testimony by “John Doe I,” the state’s longtime execution doctor. Yesterday, a unanimous three-judge appellate panel said the Constitution does not require a “medically optimal” setting or a doctor for an execution. “The Constitution protects only against the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain,” said the court adding that the current procedure “renders any risk of pain far too remote to be constitutionally significant.”