A Missouri death row inmate’s life has been spared just hours before he was set to be executed. The U.S. Supreme Court granted a temporary stay of execution for Missouri death row inmate Herbert Smulls on Tuesday night.
Justice Samuel Alito signed the order that was sent out after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, about two-and-a-half hours before Smulls was scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
Smulls’ lawyer, Cheryl Pilate, had made last-minute pleas Tuesday to spare his life, focusing on the state’s refusal to disclose from which compounding pharmacy they obtain the lethal-injection drug, pentobarbital. Missouri has argued the compounding pharmacy is part of the execution team — and therefore its name cannot be released to the public.
Smulls, 56, was convicted of killing a St. Louis County jeweler and badly injuring his wife during a robbery in 1991. He went to the shop of Stephen and Florence Honickman claiming to buy a diamond ring for his fiancee. Once there, Smulls began shooting. Norman Brown who was 15 at the time was his accomplice. They took rings and watches, including those that Florence was wearing. She was shot in the side and the arm. Smulls was found 15 minutes later with the stolen jewelry on hand.
The stay is temporary while the high court reviews the case.
Missouri statutes allow executions to occur at any time of the day they are scheduled — that’s why the state always sets the execution time for one minute after midnight, in case there are court delays. If the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately decides in favor of the state, the execution could still occur Wednesday.
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