The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

June 17, 2014

3 inmates set to die; previous execution botched

— ST. LOUIS (AP) — There have been no U.S. executions in the seven weeks since an Oklahoma inmate died of a heart attack following a botched lethal injection. That soon could change, with three convicted killers scheduled to die in the span of about 24 hours.

All three states planning lethal injections this week — Florida, Georgia and Missouri — refuse to say where they get their drugs, or if they are tested. Lawyers for the condemned inmates have challenged the secretive process used by some states to obtain lethal injection drugs from unnamed, loosely regulated compounding pharmacies.

Nine executions nationwide have been stayed or postponed since late April, when Clayton Lockett's vein collapsed just as the drug began flowing into his arm in Oklahoma's death chamber. Lockett's punishment was halted, but despite efforts to save him, he died of a heart attack.

"I think after Clayton Lockett's execution everyone is going to be watching very closely," Fordham University School of Law professor Deborah Denno, a death penalty expert, said of this week's executions. "The scrutiny is going to be even closer."

Marcus Wellons is set to die Tuesday night in Georgia, followed six hours later by John Winfield, who faces execution at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday in Missouri. John Ruthell Henry's execution is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday in Florida.

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.

Despite concerns about the drugs and how they are obtained, death penalty supporters say all three convicted killers are getting what they deserve.

Wellons was convicted in the 1989 rape and murder of India Roberts, his 15-year-old neighbor in suburban Atlanta. Soon after the girl left for school, another neighbor heard muffled screams from the apartment where Wellons was living. Later that day, a man told police he saw a man carrying what appeared to be a body in a sheet. Police found the girl's body in a wooded area. She had been strangled and raped.

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