ST. LOUIS — A district judge agreed to halt the lethal injection of a Missouri death row inmate, but the decision was quickly appealed to a federal appeals court just hours ahead of the execution scheduled for Tuesday evening.
Andre Cole, 52, was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing a man in St. Louis County in a fit of anger over having to pay child support in 1998. His execution is scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT.
Although similar arguments were rejected by the Missouri Supreme Court last week, U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry ruled late Monday that Cole should not be executed because of mental illness.
“He hears voices over the TV, over the prison intercom, everywhere,” Cole’s attorney, Joseph Luby, told The Associated Press. He said Cole believes that Gov. Jay Nixon, prosecutors and others “are giving him messages about his case.”
But the Missouri Attorney General’s Office quickly appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing there was no legal reason for the judge to overturn the Missouri Supreme Court ruling that allowed the execution to proceed.
Regardless of the appellate court’s ruling, the case will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Cole’s attorneys have already asked the high court to stop the execution based in part on concerns over Missouri’s execution drug, which was purchased from a compounding pharmacy that the state refuses to identify.
Several outside groups, including the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union, are pushing Nixon to stop the execution and appoint a board to examine concerns that there is racial bias in Missouri’s jury selection process. Cole, who is black, was convicted and sentenced by an all-white jury.
“The criminal justice system in this country is unfair,” said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU in St. Louis. “It targets persons of color. It treats the African-American community differently.”
Nixon’s spokesman said the clemency petition was under review.
St. Louis County prosecutors removed three black potential jurors from the pool of candidates, according to Cole’s supporters.