A federal judge on Monday denied a stay of execution for a Missouri murderer who argued that the state is violating his rights with a last-minute, secrecy-shrouded switch of pharmacies for the lethal injection.
Lawyers for Michael Taylor are appealing to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals as the clock ticks down on Wednesday's scheduled execution.
Taylor's case is being closely watched because his appeal centers on Missouri's use of compounding pharmacies to make the killer dose of pentobarbital.
One pharmacy agreed not to supply the drug after Taylor sued them. The state said it has contracted with another pharmacy but has not identified it.
Death-penalty states have turned to specialty pharmacies because many drug companies refuse to sell their wares for executions.
Defense lawyers say the compounders aren't properly regulated and could mix a batch of drugs that would cause an excruciating death, in violation of the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
Taylor is on death row for abducting, raping and stabbing to death a 15-year-old girl in 1989.
In a phone interview with Reuters before his stay was denied, he said he was scared by reports that an Ohio inmate took 25 minutes to die and gasped for breath during a recent execution, albeit with a different drug.
He also expressed remorse for the killing of Ann Harrison.
"I am totally not the same person I was," he said. "It's hard to understand that life without parole is not good enough."