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Concerns Raised Over Pending Missouri Executions

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ST. LOUIS (AP) - The Missouri Supreme Court’s decision to move ahead with two executions was questioned Thursday by some death penalty observers and opponents, in part over concern about Missouri’s proposed use of a drug that remains unproven in lethal injections and which gained infamy in the 2009 death of pop star Michael Jackson.

The state High Court on Wednesday set execution dates of Oct. 23 for Allen Nicklasson and Nov. 20 for Joseph Franklin. Both men are convicted killers.

Missouri plans to become the first-ever state to use the anesthetic propofol.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, said there is particular concern about propofol because Missouri no longer requires a physician to be part of the execution team. Propofol is typically administered by a physician or nurse anesthetist under the physician’s direct supervision. If improperly administered, the inmate could suffer, experts say.

“This is an experiment with a human subject,” Dieter said Thursday. “This will be sort of a brute force approach where you give them enough and they die.”

Jeff Stack, a legislative consultant with Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said the decision to move ahead with executions “is a shocking wakeup call to remind people in our state that we are part of this barbaric tradition.

“Whether we do it by lethal injection or behead them or use poison gas, it’s all murder,” Stack said.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster on said in a statement that by setting execution dates, the state High Court “has taken an important step to see that justice is finally done for the victims and their families.” On Thursday, his office said he was not available for an interview.

Jackson died from an overdose of propofol that was administered by a physician as a sleep aid. In the period before his death, Jackson’s physician, Conrad Murray, had been giving the singer nightly doses of propofol as Jackson prepared for a concert tour.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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