Missouri's lethal injection protocol passes test

As lethal chemicals surged into Dennis Skillicorn's arm early Wednesday, a new era in capital punishment began in Missouri.

The state's new court-mandated and court-approved lethal injection protocol passed its first test without a hitch, according to prison officials who already are preparing to carry out Reginald Clemons' execution next month.

And 12 more men, many long-term occupants of death row who have exhausted most avenues of appeal, are in line to follow one by one in the coming months.

Missouri's execution hiatus since October 2005 had been prompted by legal challenges to the lethal injection process and the personnel assigned to carry it out.

Authorities developed a new protocol and chose new execution team members. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled the protocol constitutional. And the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the general method of lethal injection used in Missouri and most other states.

In the wake of those court rulings, then-Attorney General Jay Nixon asked the court to set execution dates for 14 Missouri death row inmates, including Skillicorn. Twelve of those requests still are pending.

There is no way to predict when or in what order the court will schedule executions, Supreme Court spokeswoman Beth Riggert said.

"The court does not set execution dates until it believes it is appropriate to do so," she said.

On April 20, the court ordered the May 20 execution for Skillicorn. The 49-year-old former Kansas City resident was pronounced dead at 12:34 a.m. Wednesday, after the last in a flurry of final day appeals was denied.

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