Barring a last-minute appeal, this will be a busy week for executions in the United States.
Nearly seven weeks after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, Georgia, Florida and Missouri plan executions amid continuing controversy over the efficacy and legality of secret drug cocktails and how death penalties are meted out in America.
On Tuesday at 7 pm, Marcus Wellons will be put to death for the 1989 rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl. His lawyer has argued that the massive dose of pentobarbital used to kill Wellons is inhumane because the source of the drug is unknown.
“It’s an experimentation process that’s going on here. And they’re doing it in secret,” Mike Mears, a lawyer fighting against Wellon’s pending execution has said.
A few hours after Wellons is set to die, John Henry, a Florida man who has spent 24 years on death row and has a low IQ, has an appointment with the death chamber for the death of his wife and the stabbing of her 5-year-old son. His execution has been appealed, not because of the drugs set to be used but because the man has an intellectual disability and suffers from hallucinations and a serious mental illness.
The most high-profile execution set for this week is that of John Winfield, a Missouri inmate. Winfield killed his sister, and other woman and wounded his ex-girlfriend and permanently blinded her during a jealousy-fueled rampage. He has filed appeals claiming that his rights are being violated by not knowing the drugs used to cause his death as well as charging that the prison officials blocked his clemency efforts.
Last week, a federal judge temporarily halted his execution based on the fact he found evidence that prison officials did try to block his clemency appeal by intimidating a sympathetic prison staffer.
Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center pointed out that these first executions after the Lockett case will be watched closely by those concerned about the state of lethal injection in America and could influence future legislation nationwide.
“If anything even close to Oklahoma happens again, the death penalty itself could be at issue,” Dieter said, stressing, “Following Lockett’s execution, the courts and the public are looking much more closely at the way death penalty states conduct their business.”
Photo Credit: Police File Photo (Lockett)