Jeffrey Ferguson, 59, was pronounced dead at 12:11 a.m local time
at a state prison in Bonne Terre, said Mike O'Connell, a spokesman
for the Missouri Department of Public Safety. He was the third man
executed in Missouri this year.
Ferguson was twice convicted of killing 17-year-old Kelli Hall, whom
he kidnapped with an accomplice as she ended her evening shift at a
metropolitan St. Louis service station on February 9, 1989. The
girl's naked body was found less than two weeks later.
Ferguson was given a lethal injection of 5 grams of pentobarbital, a
fast-acting barbiturate at 12:01 a.m. local time, O'Connell said.
Ferguson, covered neck to toe with a white sheet and strapped to a
gurney, mouthed words and seemed to smile as a group of friends and
family blew him kisses just as the drugs began to flow, said a
Reuters reporter at the prison.
His legs made a flurry of kicking motions under the sheet but he
quickly appeared to slip into unconsciousness and took only a few
shallow breaths before becoming still. Two young women in the family
witness room began to cry.
"She was 17 years old. She had her life in front of her," Jim Hall,
Kelli's father, told reporters after the execution as he choked back
tears. "It's been a very long 25 years waiting for this execution.
Hopefully we can now move forward."
Ferguson's first conviction in 1992 was overturned due to a problem
with the jury instructions. He was convicted in a second trial and
again sentenced to death.
The U.S. Supreme Court late on Tuesday denied last-minute petitions
seeking to stay the execution.
Attorneys for Ferguson had filed several appeals to try to delay or
halt his execution, arguing, among other things, that an FBI agent
gave false and misleading testimony at his trial.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon on Tuesday denied a clemency petition
for Ferguson, finding the jury's decision appropriate.
According to prosecutors, Ferguson had been out drinking at a bar
with a friend and then went to meet another friend at the gas
station where Hall was ending her shift. Hall was checking the fuel
levels in the station tanks when a witness saw her being forced into
the back seat of a vehicle by a white male.
The next day a maintenance worker found Hall's coat and clothes
discarded at the side of the road. A farmer later found her battered
and frozen body hidden in a machinery shed.
Ferguson requested and was given an oral sedative early in the
evening, prison officials said. For a final meal he ate barbecue
ribs, French fries and apple pie. Before being put to death,
Ferguson stuck his tongue out and wiggled it toward his relatives.
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"At this point in my life, I believe that I am the best man that
I've ever been," Ferguson said in a final statement. "I'm sorry to
have to be the cause that brings you all into this dark business of
Ferguson's execution comes at a time when Missouri, and several U.S.
states, are under fire for turning to lightly regulated compounding
pharmacies for their lethal injection drugs.
Major pharmaceutical companies have stopped allowing sales of their
drugs for executions, leaving U.S. states scrambling to come up with
Two executions planned for March in Oklahoma were postponed until
April after the state said it was having trouble obtaining the drugs
it needs to perform executions.
Advocates for inmates say drugs from compounding pharmacies can lack
purity and potency and cause undue suffering in violation of the
U.S. Constitution's protections against cruel and unusual
Ferguson is one of a group of Missouri inmates who sued state
officials in 2012 in a challenge to the constitutionality of the
state's execution protocols. The case is set for trial on September
Missouri has since made a series of changes to its execution
protocols. The state is now under scrutiny for adding layers of
secrecy to its practices, including its efforts to source drugs from
compounding pharmacies. The state has also been criticized for
carrying out executions while appeals are awaiting court review.
(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Bonne Terre, Mo., and Eric M. Johnson
in Seattle; editing by Ken Wills and Andrew Heavens)
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