|It is 2014, not 1964 or 1914, and yet on Wednesday night a black man in Missouri, a black man convicted by an all-white jury, was executed before his federal appeals had been exhausted. He was executed just moments after reportedly being hauled away by prison guards while he was in the middle of a telephone call discussing his appeals with one of his attorneys. He was executed even though state officials knew that the justices of the United States Supreme Court still were considering his request for relief.
Asked repeatedly not to execute Smulls while appeals were pending, state officials failed even to respond to emails from defense attorneys that night while corrections officials went ahead with the execution. Smulls thus was pronounced dead four minutes before the Supreme Court denied his final stay request. This was not an accident or some bureaucratic misunderstanding and did not come as a surprise to Smulls’ lawyers. They say it was the third straight execution in Missouri in which corrections officials went ahead with lethal injection before the courts were through with the condemned man's appeals.
Just last month, for example, Missouri officials similarly executed a man named Allen Nicklasson before his appeals were concluded. That timing of that execution prompted a federal appeals court judge, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kermit Bye, to declare that he was “alarmed” that Missouri proceeded with its execution “before this court had even finished voting on Nicklasson's request for a stay. In my near fourteen years on the bench, this is the first time I can recall this happening.”
The timeline is everything here. Before 10:00 that night, Smulls’s attorney notified state officials that there were active pending appeals at the both the Supreme Court and the 8th Circuit. “Do not execute Mr. Smulls while claims for legal relief and stay are pending,” the defense attorneys pleaded with opposing counsel. There was no email response from Missouri’s lawyers, Smulls' attorney Cheryl Pilate told me Friday. There was instead a single telephone call, much earlier in the evening, in which a state attorney acknowledge the existence of a stay (before filing to have that stay removed).
At 10:11, the final lethal injection protocols were initiated. By this time, the 8th Circuit had rejected all of the claims before it—over another pointed dissent from Judge Bye—leaving only an active appeal before the Supreme Court. At 10:20 Smulls was pronounced dead. Ten minutes later, at 10:30, the Supreme Court notified the lawyers that Smulls’ final stay request had been denied at 10:24. This means that Missouri began to execute a man 13 minutes before it was entirely sure it could do so. Smulls was pronounced dead four minutes before the Supreme Court finally authorized Missouri to kill him. [...]
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2010—Today's "don't ask, don't tell" hearing
|In what Carl Levin (D-MI) described as a "profile in leadership," today Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen gave a stirring personal statement in support of repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy
But as expected, during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Defense Secretary Gates and Mullen announced that the Pentagon would begin a yearlong study to determine how to end the military's discriminatory "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Every Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at Stitcher.com), and find a live stream there, by searching for "Netroots Radio."