1st US executions since botched lethal injection
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Georgia and Missouri have carried out the nation’s first executions since a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma in April revived concerns about capital punishment.
Neither execution had any noticeable complications. Another execution, the third in a 24-hour span, is scheduled for Wednesday evening in Florida.
Georgia inmate Marcus Wellons, 59, who was convicted in the 1989 rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl, received a single-drug injection late Tuesday night after the U.S. Supreme Court denied his late appeals. About an hour later, John Winfield, 46, was executed in Bonne Terre, Missouri. Winfield was convicted in the 1996 killing of two women.
Nine executions nationwide have been stayed or postponed since late April, when Oklahoma prison officials halted the execution of Clayton Lockett after noting that the lethal injection drugs weren’t being administered into his vein properly. Lockett died of a heart attack several minutes later.
Georgia, Missouri and Florida all refuse to say where they obtain their drugs, or if they are tested. Lawyers for Wellons and Winfield had challenged the secretive process used by some states to obtain lethal injection drugs from unidentified, loosely regulated compounding pharmacies.
Georgia and Missouri both use the single drug pentobarbital, a sedative. Florida uses a three-drug combination of midazolam hydrochloride, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride.
In Georgia, Wellons lay still with his eyes closed as the drugs were administered at a prison in Jackson. Minutes into the procedure, he took some heavy breaths and blew air out through his lips as if snoring. There was no visible movement minutes later. Wellons was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m. EDT Tuesday.
Winfield took four or five deep breaths as the drug was injected at 12:01 a.m. CDT Wednesday, puffed his cheeks twice and then fell silent, all in a matter of seconds. He was pronounced dead at 12:10 a.m. CDT, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety said. Before his execution, Wellons said he hoped his death would bring peace to the family of India Roberts, a teen neighbor whom he raped and murdered in suburban Atlanta in 1989.
“I’d like to apologize to the Roberts family for my crimes and ask for forgiveness,” he said.
Winfield was executed for a jealous rampage in 1996 in which he shot three women in the head. Arthea Sanders and Shawnee Murphy died, while Winfield’s former girlfriend, Carmelita Donald, survived but was blinded. Winfield had fathered two of Donald’s children.
Winfield declined to make a statement Wednesday.
Florida inmate John Ruthell Henry, who was convicted of killing his estranged wife and her son, is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. EDT Wednesday at a prison in Starke, Florida.
The state said it would move ahead with his execution despite claims that Henry, 63, is mentally ill and intellectually disabled. The state says anyone with an IQ of at least 70 is not mentally disabled; testing has shown Henry’s IQ at 78, though his lawyers say it should be re-evaluated.
Henry stabbed his estranged wife, Suzanne Henry, to death a few days before Christmas in 1985. Hours later, he killed her 5-year-old son from a previous relationship, according to court records. Henry had previously pleaded no contest to second-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of his common-law wife, Patricia Roddy, in 1976, and was on parole when Suzanne Henry and the boy were killed.
Asked Tuesday if he had discussed with the Department of Corrections what happened in Oklahoma and if any changes were needed in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said, “I focus on making sure that we do things the right way here.”
Florida and Missouri trail only Texas as the most active death penalty states. Texas has carried out seven executions this year. Florida and Missouri have each executed five.
Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Gary Fineout in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report. Brumback reported from Jackson, Georgia.