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Appeals Court Throws Out Challenge To Missouri’s Execution Protocol

The plaintiffs sued to stop the execution of David Zink, who was convicted in the 2001 killing of 19-year-old Amanda Morton.

A legal challenge to Missouri’s execution protocol brought by four taxpayers has been rejected by the Missouri Court of Appeals.

In a decision Tuesday, the appeals court upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the taxpayers’ claims just days after they filed their lawsuit.

The lawsuit sought to halt the scheduled execution by lethal injection of convicted murderer David Zink. The execution went ahead as scheduled, on July 14, 2015.

Zink had been found guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping and rape in the 2001 death of 19-year-old Amanda Morton.

The lawsuit was brought by Joan Bray, a former Missouri lawmaker; Jeanette Oxford, also a former Missouri lawmaker and now executive director of Empower Missouri, a social justice advocacy organization; Elston McCowan, a Baptist minister; and Mary Ann McGivern, a member of the Sisters of Loretto.

The four argued that Missouri’s lethal-injection execution method violates federal regulations barring the compounding of pentobarbital, the injection drug used in Missouri executions.

The circuit court dismissed the case on three independent legal grounds. It found that the taxpayers lacked standing to sue, that the Missouri Supreme Court had exclusive jurisdiction over the case and that the taxpayers failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

The appeals court upheld the third finding without addressing the other two.

Oxford said she was disappointed by the decision.

“We still continue to think that we raised important issues that deserve attention,” she said. “When your state isn’t following normal FDA protocols around how they obtain drugs to use in something as irreversible and serious as the execution of a prisoner, it’s a very serious matter.”

The other plaintiffs could not be reached for comment.

The case is one of several that have challenged Missouri’s execution protocol, including another one filed by Bray.

In March, a Cole County judge ruled that the Missouri Department of Corrections deliberately violated the state’s Sunshine Law when it refused to turn over records identifying the suppliers of lethal injection drugs. The state has appealed the decision.

Missouri has had difficulty procuring lethal injection drugs after drug makers began refusing to provide them. The state has resorted to using largely unregulated compounding pharmacies, often keeping the sources of the drugs secret.

Dan Margolies, editor of the Heartland Health Monitor team, is based at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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