ST. LOUIS (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court and Missouri's governor declined on Tuesday to block the execution of a man who raped and killed a college student, leaving him on course to be the first U.S. prisoner put to death since an Arizona lethal injection went awry last month.
Michael Worthington, 43, had predicted that the nation's high court and Gov. Jay Nixon would not spare him from the lethal injection scheduled for 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, insisting in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that he had accepted his fate.
"I figure I'll wake up in a better place tomorrow," Worthington, formerly of Peoria in central Illinois, said earlier Tuesday. "I'm just accepting of whatever's going to happen because I have no choice. The courts don't seem to care about what's right or wrong anymore."
Worthington's attorneys had pressed the Supreme Court to put off his execution, set to take place at a prison south of St. Louis, citing the Arizona execution and two others that were botched in Ohio and Oklahoma, as well as the secrecy involving the drugs used during the process in Missouri.
Those three executions in recent months have renewed the debate over lethal injection. In Arizona, the inmate gasped more than 600 times and took nearly two hours to die. In April, an Oklahoma inmate died of an apparent heart attack 43 minutes after his execution began. And in January, an Ohio inmate snorted and gasped for 26 minutes before dying. Most lethal injections take effect in a fraction of that time, often within 10 or 15 minutes.
Arizona, Oklahoma and Ohio all use midazolam, a drug more commonly given to help patients relax before surgery. In executions, it is part of a two- or three-drug lethal injection.
Texas and Missouri instead administer a single large dose of pentobarbital — often used to treat convulsions and seizures and to euthanize animals. Missouri changed to pentobarbital late last year and since has carried out eight executions during which inmates showed no obvious signs of distress.
Missouri and Texas have turned to compounding pharmacies to make versions of pentobarbital. But like most states, they refuse to name their drug suppliers, creating a shroud of secrecy that has prompted lawsuits.
In denying Worthington's clemency request, Nixon called Worthington's rape and killing of 24-year-old Melinda "Mindy" Griffin "horrific," noting that "there is no question about the brutality of this crime — or doubt of Michael Worthington's guilt."
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