Thursday, January 30, 2014

Herbert Smulls, Black Who Murdered White Jeweler in Chesterfield and Thought He’d Also Killed Man’s Wife, is Executed

Stephen Honickman

Updated at 10:45 p.m.

BONNE TERRE • Herbert Smulls has been executed for fatally shooting a jeweler during a 1991 robbery in Chesterfield, marking the state's third lethal injection in as many months.

Smulls was executed late Wednesday night at the state prison in Bonne Terre and pronounced dead at 10:20 p.m.

The U.S. Supreme Court had granted a temporary stay late Tuesday, which halted Smull's scheduled 12:01 a.m. execution. The high court eventually cleared all delays late Wednesday evening.

Smulls' attorneys had filed several appeals, mostly challenging the state's refusal to disclose the name of the compounding pharmacy that supplies its execution drug.

Smulls was convicted of killing Stephen Honickman during a robbery at his jewelry shop on July 27, 1991. Honickman's wife was badly injured but survived.

Earlier story:

BONNE TERRE • The U.S. Supreme Court has denied last-minute requests to halt the execution of a Missouri man convicted of killing a local jeweler two decades ago.

The high court issued a temporary stay less than three hours before Herbert Smulls was scheduled to be executed at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

But the court lifted the stay without explanation late Wednesday afternoon, however a stay issued by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals remains in force, according to the Missouri Attorney General's Office.

Smulls' attorneys were challenging among other things the state's refusal to disclose where it obtained its lethal injection drug. The state says the name of the compounding pharmacy isn't public record, because it's considered part of the execution team.

The 56-year-old Smulls was sentenced to death for killing Stephen Honickman and badly injuring his wife during a 1991 robbery of their suburban St. Louis store.

Smulls' execution was stayed Tuesday night with an order signed by Justice Samuel Alito. Smulls’ lawyers had made last-minute pleas to stop the execution, giving the high court time to investigate errors by lower courts. The lawyers had focused on an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling refusing to allow Smulls’ attorneys to learn more about a compounding pharmacy in Oklahoma that produces Missouri’s execution drug.

Smulls’ lawyers said the appeals court ruling made it impossible for them to investigate whether Missouri’s execution protocol could put him at risk violating his 8thAmendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

After the stay on Tuesday night, the state said it would reconvene the execution team at noon today. Smulls, 56, was convicted and sentenced to death for killing a St. Louis County jeweler and badly injuring his wife during a 1991 robbery.

St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said talk about the drug is a smoke screen aimed at sparing the life of a cold-blooded killer. He noted that several courts have already ruled against Smulls, including the U.S. District Court in Kansas City and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Gov. Jay Nixon denied clemency Tuesday evening.

Smulls had already served prison time for robbery when, on July 27, 1991, he went to F&M Crown Jewels in Chesterfield and told the owners, Stephen and Florence Honickman, that he wanted to buy a diamond for his fiancee. He took 15-year-old Norman Brown with him.

Once in the shop, Smulls began shooting. The robbers took rings and watches, including those that Florence Honickman was wearing.

She was shot in the side and the arm, and feigned death while lying in a pool of her own blood but survived. Her 51-year-old husband died.

Police stopped Smulls 15 minutes later, and they found stolen jewelry and weapons in his car. Florence Honickman identified the assailants. Brown was convicted in 1993 of first-degree murder and other charges, and sentenced to life without parole. Smulls got the death penalty.

Missouri had used a three-drug execution process since 1989, until the drug makers stopped selling those drugs for executions. Missouri eventually switched late last year to pentobarbital. Pentobarbital was used to execute two Missouri inmates late last year, and neither showed visible signs of distress.

Compounding pharmacies custom-mix drugs for clients and are not subject to oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, though they are regulated by states.

On Tuesday, Pilate said previous testimony from a prison official indicates that the state stores the drug at room temperatures, which could taint the drug and potentially cause it to lose its effectiveness.

Pilate also said she and her defense team used information obtained through open records requests and publicly available documents to determine that the compounding pharmacy is The Apothecary Shoppe, based in Tulsa, Okla. In a statement, The Apothecary Shoppe would neither confirm nor deny that it makes the Missouri execution drug.

Also on Tuesday, Missouri Senate Democratic Leader Jolie Justus introduced legislation that would create an 11-member commission responsible for setting the state's execution procedure. She said ongoing lawsuits and secrecy about the state's current lethal injection method should drive a change in protocol.

Jeremy Kohler of the Post-Dispatch and Associated Press writers Justin Juozapavicius in Tulsa, Okla., and Chris Blank in Jefferson City, Mo., contributed to this report.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the report. Herbert smulls can celebrate Hell w/ fellow new comers Commie Pete Seegers & Commie Mandela. Next up Castro or ???

Nicholas said...

N.S.: I'm moving this comment here. The commenter accidentally posted it at the wrong blog item.

Anonymous said...

A three drug cocktail.

A two drug cocktail.

A one drug cocktail.

What is the name of the pharmacy?

Is the pharmacy certified?

Are the drugs or drug stored at room temperature. And if so, for how long?

Are the drugs of drug stored at other than room temperature. And if so, for how long?

During the execution, does the condemned show signs of distress?

During the execution, does the condemned not show signs of distress? And if not, why not?

Etc. etc. etc.

Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 11:39:00 AM EST