Missouri has executed eighteen killers in the last two years, a pace expected to slow significantly with death sentences on the decline and many of the 28 death row inmates still filing appeals, the Associated Press reports. Only Texas, with 24, has performed more executions than Missouri since November 2013. Execution appears to be imminent for just one Missouri inmate. “They’ve basically run out of people to kill, to put it in an undiplomatic way,” said Kent Gipson, a Kansas City attorney who represents several inmates. Executions across the U.S. were largely on hold for years under a de facto moratorium as the Supreme Court grappled with the constitutionality of lethal injection. Once that ended, execution drugs became hard to obtain because major firms refused to sell drugs for lethal use.
Nationally, the 72 death sentences issued last year were the fewest since 1976, according to Amnesty International. None was issued in Missouri. Death penalty expert Deborah Denno of Fordham Law School cited several factors, including concern over the availability of lethal drugs and worries about executing the innocent. “I think juries aren’t sending people to death as much and I think prosecutors aren’t bringing them up as often,” Denno said. In Missouri, execution could be near for Earl Forrest, convicted of killing a sheriff’s deputy and two others during a 2002 crime spree. Sixteen of the remaining Missouri inmates have yet to exhaust their appeals. Another two have claimed innocence and their cases are being reviewed, while two others still technically on death row have been ruled mentally incompetent for execution.