After a seven-week lapse in U.S. executions, two inmates were put to death by lethal injection within two hours of each other.
A Georgia man who raped and murdered a 15-year-old girl was executed Tuesday night, ending a seven-week lapse in the death penalty across the United States, the result partly of legal controversies surrounding the practice of lethal injection.
Marcus Wellons, 59, was executed with barbiturate pentobarbital that the state obtained for the first time from a loosely regulated compounding pharmacy.
Wellons' execution was the first of three to be carried out in less than 24 hours for condemned prisoners in Georgia, Missouri and Florida.
A second execution quickly followed in Missouri for John Winfield, convicted of killing two women and blinding a third in a shooting spree in 1996. He was executed early Wednesday morning.
Attorneys in the Winfield case failed in a bid late Tuesday for a last-minute stay of execution before the U.S.Supreme Court.
A third execution by lethal injection is planned in Florida at 6 p.m. Wednesday for convicted killer John Henry.
Attorneys for Wellons unsuccessfully moved to block his execution Tuesday on grounds similar to those raised in recent death penalty cases in other states, arguing that Georgia's secrecy surrounding the barbiturate being used violates the condemned prisoner's constitutional rights. Missouri and Florida also keep secret the sources of their drugs for lethal-injection execution.
Georgia has joined several other death penalty states scrambling to find necessary drugs for carrying out lethal injections after federally approved manufacturers have elected in recent years to no longer sell their pharmaceuticals for use in executions. Both Missouri and Florida keep secret the sources for their lethal-injection drugs.
Wellons' lawyers argued that Georgia planned to use an overdose of pentobarbital produced by a compounding pharmacy and not a federally approved manufacturer. Compounding pharmacies, which mix drugs to order, are not heavily regulated. Similar legal grounds were raised in the execution of Clayton Lockett by Oklahoma in late April.
That execution went awry and witnesses watched in horror as Lockett struggled against his restraints after drugs were administered. He writhed, groaned and attempted to speak before the execution chamber curtains were drawn to keep witnesses from seeing more. The execution was halted, but Lockett died 43 minutes after the process began, reportedly from a heart attack.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin ordered an investigation. Meanwhile, an independent autopsy performed by a forensic pathologist hired by defense lawyers found that executioners had repeatedly struggled to insert intravenous needles into Lockett's arms and groin, even though he had healthy veins.
Since that flawed execution, no others had taken place, and several executions had been delayed.
1:33 a.m. EDT June 18, 2014
The Newhawks Crew
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2 executions within 2 hours after 7-week lull