Inmate’s lawyer asks court for execution stay

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The attorney for a man convicted in a series of killings fueled by his hatred of blacks and Jews asked the Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday to halt the inmate’s execution, citing concerns about the state’s plan to use a drug obtained from a compounding pharmacy.

Attorney Jennifer Herndon wrote that the use of pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy puts Joseph Paul Franklin at risk of an “excruciatingly painful execution.”

Franklin is scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 20 at the prison in Bonne Terre for the sniper killing of 42-year-old Gerald Gordon outside a suburban St. Louis synagogue in 1977. He would be the first person executed in Missouri in nearly three years, and the first since Missouri switched from a three-drug execution mixture to the new one-drug method.

It wasn’t clear when the Supreme Court would rule on Herdon’s request. A spokesman for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office declined comment.

Franklin has been convicted of six other killings and is suspected of nearly two dozen overall across the country from 1977 through 1980.

Lethal drugs have become increasingly difficult for prisons and corrections officials to obtain because their makers don’t want them used in executions. In April 2012, Missouri announced the switch to the drug propofol. The first scheduled use of it was last month, when Allen Nicklasson was to set die for killing a good Samaritan who stopped to help when Nicklasson’s car broke down on Interstate 70.

Most propofol is made in Europe, and the anti-death penalty European Union threatened to limit export of the commonly-used anesthetic if Missouri went ahead with the execution. That prompted an outcry from the medical community. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon halted the Nicklasson execution and ordered the Missouri Department of Corrections to find a new drug.

Days later, the department announced the move to pentobarbital, a sedative, and the inclusion of a compounding pharmacy as part of the execution team. Because names of the execution team aren’t made public, little is known about the compounding pharmacy. Herndon said that secrecy adds to the uncertainty about the viability of the new process.

Compounding pharmacists typically process ingredients to fit the needs of individual patients. Texas and Ohio are among other states that have turned to compounding pharmacies to prepare pentobarbital for executions after large drug manufacturers balked. Drugs manufactured by compounding pharmacies aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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