Last-minute appeals pending in Missouri execution

ST. LOUIS — A Missouri man who was set to become the first U.S. inmate put to death since a lethal injection went awry last month in Arizona filed last-minute appeals Tuesday to the U.S. Supreme Court and asked the governor for clemency.

Michael Worthington, 43, raped and strangled a female college student in 1995. But his attorneys pressed the nation’s high court to put off his execution planned for 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at a prison south of St. Louis, calling into question 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.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon also was weighing Worthington’s clemency request, spokesman Scott Holste said.

The three botched executions in recent months have renewed the debate over lethal injection. In Arizona last month, an inmate gasped more than 600 times and took nearly two hours to die. In January, an Ohio inmate snorted and gasped for 26 minutes before dying. And a few months later in Oklahoma, an inmate died of an apparent heart attack 43 minutes after his execution began. Most lethal injections take effect in a fraction of that time, often within 10 or 15 minutes.

Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona 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.

Worthington, originally from Peoria in central Illinois, was sentenced to death in 1998 after pleading guilty to slaying Melinda “Mindy” Griffin, a neighbor in Lake St. Louis, just west of St. Louis.

Worthington confessed that in September 1995, he cut open a window screen to break in to the college finance major’s condominium, choked her into submission and raped her before strangling her when she regained consciousness. He stole her car keys and jewelry, along with credit cards he used to buy drugs.

Worthington confessed to the killing but insisted he couldn’t remember details and that he was prone to blackouts due to alcohol and cocaine abuse.

DNA tests later linked Worthington to the slaying.

During his sentencing hearing, Worthington’s attorney argued that a life term would be more fitting, saying the man had abusive parents who got him addicted to drugs and made him steal.

On Tuesday, Griffin’s 76-year-old parents anticipated witnessing Worthington die.

“It’s been 19 years, and I feel like there’s going to be a finality,” Griffin’s mother, Carol Angelbeck, told The Associated Press by telephone Tuesday, a day after flying in to St. Louis from their Florida home. With the execution, “I won’t have to ever deal with the name Michael Worthington again. I’m hoping for my family’s sake, my sake, that we can go there (to the prison) and get this over with.”

“In this case, there is no question in anyone’s mind he did it, so why does it take 18 or 19 years to go through with this?” added Jack Angelbeck, Griffin’s father. “This drags on and on. At this point, it’s ridiculous, and hopefully it’s going to end.”

More in Local News

Police seek well-traveled pickpockets after thefts here

Images and video have been released after thefts in Everett, Lynnwood and elsewhere in the metro area.

4 years later, grieving Oso families remember the mudslide

The ceremony was held near a cedar grove of 43 trees which represent the 43 people killed in 2014.

Retired Naval officer Doug Roulstone to run for state Senate

The Republican will challenge incumbent Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, in the 44th District.

Families announce plans for an Oso mudslide memorial

Visitors from throughout the world visit the site of the 2014 slide, which killed 43 people.

Police seek man after stabbing and robbery south of Everett

A convenience store clerk was slashed by a knife-wielding man at 8 a.m. Thursday morning.

Bill aims to curb the filing of campaign finance complaints

It would give the Public Disclosure Commission greater discretion in resolving violations.

Suspect identified in break-in and shooting

He fired one round into a television and more shots when an occupant tried to confront him outside.

Repaving under way on two portions of highways in north county

Parts of HIghways 530, 531 are affected by summer work

Video: The life of Helen Jackson

The wife of a prominent senator, she was also a tireless contributor to civic life and philanthropic causes.

Most Read