Judge Says Missouri's Lethal Injection Process Still Not Humane Enough

The state's revised plan for conducting lethal injections still falls short of ensuring they are conducted humanely, according to the judge who halted Missouri's executions.

U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. cited "numerous problems" when he stopped executions June 26. Among them, he said the state needed a board-certified anesthesiologist to ensure the lethal injection procedure used posed no risk of unnecessary pain and suffering.

The state was unable to find an anesthesiologist willing to participate and wanted to use another physician, a nurse or a pharmacist to prepare the drugs used to put inmates to death.

That proposal "is an improvement over the current procedure," Gaitan wrote Tuesday. "However, there continue to be inadequacies with the personnel required to monitor and oversee" the death penalty.

"Missouri's current lethal injection procedure subjects condemned inmates to an unnecessary risk of unconstitutional pain and suffering," he wrote.

The legal challenge to the state's death penalty was brought on behalf of Michael A. Taylor, who was sentenced to death for the 1989 rape and killing of a 15-year-old girl.

Taylor's attorneys argue the drug combination used to execute Missouri prisoners is unconstitutionally cruel punishment. Taylor's appeal will now go before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.