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Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon

ESL again tops unsafe neighborhood list

Thursday, 13 February 2014 02:24 Published in Around Town
   A new survey ranking the safety of cities across the country is out, and it's a bit of a mixed bag for the St. Louis area.
   According to crime data website Neighborhood Scout, East St. Louis is the most dangerous city in the nation. East St. Louis beat out places like Flint, Michigan and Camden, New Jersey for the dubious distinction. The website says a resident of East St. Louis has a one-in-twenty chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime--compare that to just 1-in-241 for the rest of Illinois.
   On a brighter note, Ballwin, Missouri was ranked the ninth safest city in America. The average resident there has a 1-in-almost 1700 chance of being the victim of a violent crime. 
   Check the odds in your neighborhood on the Neighborhood Scout website.  

Company blocked from selling execution drug to MO

Thursday, 13 February 2014 00:23 Published in Local News

   A federal judge agreed late Wednesday to temporarily block an Oklahoma pharmacy from providing an execution drug to the Missouri Department of Corrections for use in an upcoming lethal injection.

   The temporary restraining order was issued after a federal lawsuit was filed in Tulsa by Missouri death row inmate Michael Taylor. His attorneys said the department contracts with The Apothecary Shoppe in Tulsa to provide compounded pentobarbital, the drug set to be used in Taylor's execution on Feb. 26.
   The lawsuit argued that several recent executions involving the drug indicate it would likely cause Taylor "severe, unnecessary, lingering and ultimately inhumane pain."
   In his order Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Terence Kern wrote that Taylor's attorneys submitted "facts demonstrating that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to plaintiff before defendant can be heard in opposition."
   The judge set a hearing for Tuesday and ordered the pharmacy to submit a response to the injunction by Friday. He said the order would remain in effect at least until the hearing.
   But it wasn't immediately clear if the execution would be delayed because of the ruling. The state has not revealed the name of the compounding pharmacy supplying the drug, and The Apothecary Shoppe previously declined to confirm or deny that it was the source of a drug used in an earlier Missouri execution.
   A pharmacy spokeswoman did not return telephone calls seeking comment late Wednesday. Phone and email messages were also left with the Missouri Department of Corrections and the Missouri Attorney General's Office.
   Taylor, 47, pleaded guilty in the 1989 abduction, rape and stabbing death of a 15-year-old Kansas City girl.
   One of Taylor's attorneys, Matthew Hellman of the Washington, D.C., law firm Jenner & Block, said the lawsuit focuses attention on the drug used in Missouri's lethal injections and the laws regarding compounding.
   "We're gratified the court entered the order," Hellman said after the Wednesday order. "This lawsuit is about an unacceptable option in carrying out the death penalty and this is why we're seeking to stop The Apothecary Shoppe from providing this unlawful drug."
   Missouri corrections officials turned to The Apothecary Shoppe to supply compounded pentobarbital after manufacturers of the drug refused to provide it for lethal injections, according to the lawsuit.
   In January 2012, a Danish company that had produced pentobarbital under the trade name Nembutal sold the exclusive rights to the drug to an American company, Akorn Inc., on the condition that Akorn not sell the drug for use in executions.
   "Those manufacturers do not want medication to be used for executions," Hellman said.
   Taylor's lawsuit questions whether the pharmacy can legally produce and deliver compounded pentobarbital. It says the pharmacy is not registered as a drug manufacturer with the Food & Drug Administration and alleges it violates federal law each time it delivers the drug across state lines to Missouri corrections officials.
   Along with asking for a temporary restraining order, the lawsuit seeks an injunction barring the pharmacy from delivering "this unidentified, unregulated, untested and unsafe pharmaceutical product." Hellman declined to say whether The Apothecary Shoppe also sells compounded pentobarbital to states other than Missouri.
   Several recent executions that involved compounded pentobarbital indicate use of the drug will subject Taylor to "inhumane pain," the lawsuit says.
   One such execution was that of Oklahoma death row inmate Michael Lee Wilson, 38. Within 20 seconds of receiving the lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary on Jan. 9 Wilson said: "I feel my whole body burning." The lawsuit alleges the statement describes "a sensation consistent with receipt of contaminated pentobarbital."
   The lawsuit also sites an Oct. 15, 2012, execution in which South Dakota death row inmate Eric Robert, 50, cleared his throat, gasped for air and then snored after receiving the lethal injection. His skin turned a purplish hue and his heart continued to beat for 10 minutes after he stopped breathing. It took 20 minutes for authorities to finally declare Robert dead.
   "These events are consistent with receipt of a contaminated or sub-potent compounded drug," the lawsuit says.
   Use of the same drug in Taylor's execution could result in a similar reaction, Hellman said.
   "It is extremely disturbing," he said.
   On Monday, Missouri Corrections Department Director George Lombardi told a legislative panel that the agency pays for the drug to be independently tested to make sure it works and is sterile. He also said the agency had found no substantial issues in a background check of its current supplier.
   Lombardi did not release the name of the pharmacy that provides the drug, saying Missouri could not carry out lethal injections if that information were released. He said the state pays $8,000 in cash to the pharmacy for the drug.

 

Mom, stepdad charged in north city toddler's death

Wednesday, 12 February 2014 04:34 Published in Local News
   Two people are now facing charges in the death of a toddler in North St. Louis yesterday (Tuesday). Emergency crews were called to a home at Rowen and Ridge Avenues before dawn.  There they found the lifeless body of 23 month old Jabria Phillips.  Detectives say she died of blunt force trauma.  
   Her stepfather, Deonte Evans is accused of beating the girl to death.  He's charged with second degree murder. The toddler's mother, Shanika Evans, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child.  
   The toddler's grandmother Brenda Baker, who lives in Detroit, learned about Jabria's death through news reports.  She was understandably heartbroken when she spoke with Fox 2 News about her granddaughter. "She was very energetic," Baker said.  "She laughed...every time I saw her laugh, I saw my son laugh...now I don't even have that."  Baker says the girl's father died last year.
 

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