Attorneys for a condemned Missouri inmate have asked a federal court to postpone his lethal injection, claiming two top officials with the Department of Corrections lied under oath about use of the sedative midazolam in executions.
A petition filed late Thursday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City asks that Earl Ringo Jr.’s execution, which is scheduled for Wednesday, be put on hold until a hearing can determine whether his constitutional rights have been violated. Ringo was sentenced to die for killing two people during a restaurant robbery in Columbia in 1998.
Midazolam has come under scrutiny after it was used in botched executions earlier this year in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona. Missouri’s lethal injection drug is pentobarbital.
But St. Louis Public Radio reported last week that Missouri has administered midazolam to all nine inmates put to death since November. Ringo’s attorneys said that Corrections Department director George Lombardi and director of adult institutions David Dormire made misleading statements in a deposition earlier this year, when they said that midazolam was not used in lethal injections.
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The court filing said the new disclosures “establish that critical state actors have perjured themselves.”
Corrections Department spokesman David Owen declined to comment on the perjury allegation. He said, though, that midazolam is offered before executions to help calm the inmate.
“The sedative is not the lethal injection chemical,” Owen said in an email to The Associated Press. “The sedative is used to relieve the offender’s level of anxiety and is administered in advance of the execution. The only lethal chemical the department uses is pentobarbital.”
The court filing disagreed. It claims that use of midazolam “initiates the execution process.”
In a January deposition, Lombardi was asked about the possible use of hydromorphone or midazolam as a lethal injection backup if pentobarbital was not available.
“And I’m testifying right now to tell you that will not be the case,” Lombardi said, according to a transcript of the deposition. “We will not use those drugs.”
Lombardi also said in the deposition that Versed, another name for midazolam, can be given as a sedative.
“Regarding the director’s quote, which some media have taken out of context and inaccurately reported, the director was asked if Midazolam or Hydromorphone would ever be used as lethal chemicals in an execution if Pentobarbital was not available. He answered the question accurately,” Owen said in his email.