The State of Missouri executed Cecil Clayton this past Tuesday night. This case should have qualified under the landmark 2002 Supreme Court case Atkins v. Virginia, which ruled executing mentally disabled individuals violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Yet the U.S. Supreme Court did not see it that way in spite of Cecil Clayton’s mental disabilities: none of the justices accepted Clayton’s arguments for a stay based on his brain injury. However, four justices said they would have granted a stay based on his claim that Missouri’s secrecy-shrouded process for obtaining the lethal dose of pentobarbital could lead to an unconstitutional death.
Unfortunately, the secrecy goes deeper. Several hours before every execution Fr. Paul Jones, a priest on the state board of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, calls the person to be executed, speaking on behalf of all of us in affirming the person and promising our continuing commitment to abolishing the death penalty. He was been permitted to do this before, but not this time. Instead of scheduling Cecil Clayton’s execution for midnight as usual, it was cryptically authorized to occur during a 24 hour period in which the general public would not know the time of execution until after it was done. Fr. Paul was told that there had been a change of policy and his call was not allowed. Please pray for our MADP Board as we meet on Saturday to plan strategies to end this senseless killing.
Daryl Charron, C.PP.S.