A man convicted of killing 2 people in a drug dispute and a sheriff's deputy in a subsequent shootout is scheduled to be put to death Wednesday in what could be Missouri's last execution for some time.
Earl Forrest, 66, is set to die for the December 2002 deaths of Harriett Smith, Michael Wells and Dent County Sheriff's Deputy Joann Barnes.
Forrest's attorney, Kent Gipson, is seeking a stay of execution from the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster countered that the Supreme Court has already resolved that debate. A clemency request also is pending before Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.
According to court documents, Forrest had been drinking when he went to Smith's home in the southern Missouri town of Salem and demanded that she fulfill her promise to buy a lawn mower and mobile home for him in exchange for introducing her to a source for methamphetamine. Wells was visiting Smith at the time. An argument ensued, and Forrest shot Wells in the face. He shot Smith 6 times and took a lock box full of meth valued at $25,000.
When police converged on Forrest's home, he shot Barnes and Dent County Sheriff Bob Wofford, according to court documents. Forrest was also shot in the exchange of gunfire, along with his girlfriend, Angela Gamblin. Wofford and Gamblin survived.
Missouri has been one of the most prolific states for executions in recent years, 2nd only to Texas. The state has executed 18 prisoners since November 2013, including 6 last year. Forrest would be the 1st in 2016.
Missouri's death row population is dwindling. Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, said juries today are less likely to opt for capital punishment, in part because of greater awareness of how mental illness sometimes factors in violent crime. Just 49 people were sentenced to death nationally last year, the fewest since U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty as a possible punishment in 1976. No one was sentenced to death in Missouri in 2014 or 2015, Dunham said.
"As these executions take place, fewer and fewer people are being sentenced to death, so the death penalty is withering on the other end," Dunham said.
None of the 25 other men on Missouri's death row face imminent execution.
16 have yet to exhaust court appeals and aren't likely to do so anytime soon. Execution is on hold for 9 others. 2 were declared mentally unfit for execution. 2 were granted stays because of medical conditions that could cause painful deaths during lethal injection. 2 had sentences set aside by the courts due to trial attorney errors. One inmate was granted a stay while his innocence claim is reviewed. One case was sent back to a lower court to consider an appeal.
And in one unusual case, inmate William Boliek was granted a stay by Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan in 1997. The case wasn't resolved before Carnahan died in a 2000 plane crash, and a court determined that only Carnahan could overturn the stay. Nixon's office has said Boliek will not be executed.
Executions nationally are on the decline. In 1999, 98 people were executed. That fell to just 28 in 2015 - a 24-year low - and 13 so far in 2016.
Source: The Associated Press, May 11, 2016
Attorneys ask U.S. Supreme Court to block Missouri execution of Earl Forrest
It's up to the U.S. Supreme Court whether Missouri will carry out the execution of a man convicted of 13 years ago killing 3 people, including a Dent County Sheriff's Deputy.
Earl Forrest is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the state prison in Bonne Terre between 6 p.m. Wednesday and 5:59 p.m. Thursday. His attorneys, including Lance Sandage, have asked the Court to block the execution based on their argument that the death penalty is unconstitutional.
Forrest does not deny killing Chief Deputy Sharron Joann Barnes, Harriett Smith or Michael Wells in December 2002, but Sandage says the jury that sentenced him to die didn't hear information about a brain injury he suffered years before.
"PET scans that were conducted showed that. That has really been the thrust of Mr. Forrest's claim through post-conviction, was trial counsel's failure to properly litigate that in the penalty phase of his trial," Sandage told Missourinet.
The appeal to the Supreme Court, however, is solely that the death penalty violates the 8th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution. A request for clemency from Governor Jay Nixon (D) has also been filed. Other appeals for a stay have already been denied.
Source: missourinet.com, May 11, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has denied clemency for condemned killer Earl Forrest, hours before Forrest's scheduled execution
Forrest is scheduled to die by injection Wednesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre. He was convicted of the 2002 killings of Harriett Smith and Michael Wells in a drug dispute and Dent County Sheriff's Deputy Joann Barnes in a subsequent shootout at Forrest's home.
An appeal is still pending before the U.S. Supreme Court on the claim that the death penalty amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
Missouri has executed 18 men since November 2013, including 6 last year. Forrest would be the 1st in 2016.
The pace of executions is expected to slow because most of the remaining death row inmates have pending appeals or have been declared unfit for execution.
Source: Associated Press, May 11, 2016