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Attorneys raise new questions about Missouri’s lethal injection process

Updated: 2014-01-25T05:06:50Z

By TONY RIZZO

The Kansas City Star

With his scheduled execution just days away, lawyers for a condemned Missouri inmate on Friday raised new concerns about the lethal injection drug the state intends to use.

In documents filed in federal court, attorneys for Herbert Smulls say the laboratory tasked with testing the purity of the pentobarbital for use in the execution was the same lab that tested drugs linked to a 2012 meningitis outbreak that killed more than 60 people.

According to the affidavit of a defense expert, the Oklahoma-based testing laboratory has been cited by federal officials for “numerous deficiencies and failures.”

The defense expert said the laboratory had tested and approved samples of drugs prepared by a New England laboratory later linked to the meningitis outbreak.

He also noted that in the lab’s report of its testing of the drug to be used to execute Smulls, it noted the presence of an unknown residual solvent, yet still passed the sample.

“It is unacceptable by any standard to inject an unknown substance into a human subject,” wrote the expert, Larry D. Sasich.

Attorneys for Smulls and other Missouri death row inmates previously have argued that if execution drugs are not properly prepared, they could contain impurities or lack potency and not work as intended.

That could cause an inmate excruciating pain and violate the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Attorneys for Smulls, who was convicted of a 1991 St. Louis killing, are seeking a 60-day stay of his execution, which is scheduled for Wednesday.

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.

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