Constitutional challenges by Missouri death row inmates to the state's death penalty have been dealt a blow by a federal appeals court, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ruled 7-3 that if the inmates' lawyers can't point to a more humane execution than lethal injection — such as hanging or firing squad — they are not entitled to discover more about the pharmacy hired by Missouri to make the drugs for the injections. Inmates have been trying to examine whether Missouri's lethal injections carry the risk of an unconstitutionally excruciating death. The Missouri Department of Corrections had argued that identifying the pharmacy could make it more difficult for the state to carry out the death penalty. The Department of Corrections' argument won.
It was not clear what effect the ruling could have on court challenges to the execution of Herbert Smulls scheduled for 12:01 a.m. tomorrow. Judge Steven Colloton, writing for a majority of the Eighth Circuit, ruled that lawyers for the inmates did not have a valid claim that the state's execution protocol was unconstitutional, because they did not suggest “a feasible and more humane alternative method.” (The Associated Press reports that, “With lethal-injection drugs in short supply and new questions looming about their effectiveness, lawmakers in some death penalty states are considering bringing back relics of a more gruesome past: firing squads, electrocutions and gas chambers.”