Gov. Matt Blunt and Attorney General Jay Nixon, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, have both called on the Missouri Supreme Court to begin setting dates of execution for the 46 inmates currently on the state's death row. They both issued press releases shortly after the ruling, urging executions to restart.
U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof and state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, Republican gubernatorial candidates, also called on the state to begin setting execution dates of Missouri's death row inmates.
The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 on Wednesday that Kentucky's lethal injection process, which is similar to Missouri's, does not violate the 8th Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishments."
There has been no execution in Missouri since October 2005 because of a lawsuit filed against the state by Michael Taylor, a St. Louis-area death row inmate. Taylor's suit alleged the state's death penalty procedure was excessively painful.
U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. ruled in June 2006 that, under the current form, Missouri's execution process presents an unreasonable risk of an excruciating execution, and he effectively suspended the death penalty in the state. Gaitan also ruled the state must have an anesthesiologist present during the execution, a mandate the state's Corrections Department could not meet because anesthesiologists feared breaking the Hippocratic Oath.
The suspension was lifted in August 2007 after a federal appeals court overruled Gaitan. Since then, however, Missouri's Supreme Court has not set any execution date, and the future of executions has remained uncertain.
Wednesday's ruling could have a major effect on the Missouri Supreme Court's willingness to set execution dates for the state's inmates.
Brian Hauswirth, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Corrections, said the department's lawyers are reviewing the Supreme Court's 97-page ruling and will be for some time because of its extensive nature.
Hauswirth said that because the requirement of an anesthesiologist has been lifted, the state, which has appropriate medical personnel to administer the execution, is only waiting on the state court to set a date.