With all eyes on Ferguson, Missouri, ahead of the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case, the state quietly executed an inmate early Wednesday morning at a prison in Bonne Terre, 70 miles south of where protests continue over the August police shooting of Brown. Leon Taylor, 56, was put to death by lethal injection for killing a Kansas City gas station attendant 20 years ago, according to the Associated Press. His was the state’s ninth execution this year, making 2014 a tie with 1999 for most executions in Missouri in a year.
The stepdaughter of Robert Newton, the Kansas City worker who was shot and killed by Taylor during a gas station robbery in 1994, and four of Taylor’s family members watched from an adjacent room as the lethal drug was administered just after midnight. Taylor was pronounced dead at 12:22 a.m.
In a final statement, Taylor said he was “sorry to have brought all of you to this point.” He also apologized to Newton’s family, according to AP.
Since a nationwide moratorium on death penalties was lifted in 1976, Missouri has executed 79 inmates for murder convictions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Missouri has put more inmates to death than 30 of the 35 states that have practiced capital punishment since 1976. In total, 1,392 executions have taken place in the U.S. over the past 38 years, nearly half of them in Texas.
In September, Missouri inmate Earl Ringo Jr. was executed at the same state prison in Bonne Terre as Taylor. Ringo’s lawyers tried to get his sentence overturned by arguing that the state was using Midazolam, a controversial sedative drug that was the common link in three recent botched executions in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona.
It’s unclear whether Taylor was given the same drug as Ringo; however, reports indicate the execution went off without any discernible complications.
Taylor’s execution went ahead as planned after Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon denied a last-minute clemency request from Taylor’s lawyers that claimed he had been the victim of abuse and alcohol and drug addiction as a child, and had become a devout Christian in prison. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was also turned down. The request argued the death penalty sentence was unfair because the original jury in Taylor’s case could not agree on a sentence. Ultimately, a new, all-white jury decided on the death penalty for Taylor, who was black.
In the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, residents are awaiting the decision of a grand jury on whether to indict the white police officer who shot and killed Brown, an unarmed black teenager. The incident between the officer, Darren Wilson, and Brown sparked protests across Ferguson over what many saw as deeply rooted race issues between the city’s predominantly black residents and its almost all-white police force.