Appeals court denies hearing in death penalty case

Thursday, August 9, 2007

ST. LOUIS -- A federal appeals court has dealt a major blow to a Missouri death penalty case that effectively had halted executions in the state.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday denied a request by condemned inmate Michael Taylor to consider whether Missouri's lethal injection method is constitutional.

The petition came after a three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled in June that Missouri's execution procedure is not cruel and unusual punishment.

Tuesday's order said Taylor's petition for the full court to hear the lethal injection issue, or for a three-judge panel to rehear it, was denied.

Taylor's attorney said Wednesday she will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. And while the high court accepts only a small percentage of the thousands of cases it is asked to review each year, "this has a better shot than most," attorney Ginger Anders said. "It's an extremely important issue, one that is going on in a lot of states."

What remains unclear is whether Tuesday's ruling sets the stage for executions in Missouri to resume after a yearlong moratorium.

A Kansas City federal judge's order last year to suspend executions could be lifted within a week, freeing the Missouri Supreme Court to set execution dates.

However, if Taylor asks, and the appeals court agrees, the moratorium could be continued while the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to consider his case.

Missouri currently has 44 inmates awaiting execution.

The Missouri Department of Corrections called the appeals court ruling "another step toward resolution of the legal challenges to lethal injection," spokesman Brian Hauswirth said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: