Herbert Smulls, a black inmate who was convicted by an all-white jury, was executed last Wednesday by the State of Missouri before the US Supreme Court ruled on his case.
Smulls was reportedly on the phone discussing his federal appeal when he was taken away to be executed (video below).
According to The Atlantic, at 10:11 p.m. Smulls received a lethal injection and was pronounced dead at 10:20 p.m.
But the US Supreme Court did not rule on his case until 10:24 p.m., which means the Missouri began to execute Smulls 13 minutes before the ruling. While the US Supreme Court did not block Smulls' execution, he would have been dead had they ruled in his favor, thanks to Missouri authorities.
Smulls' public defenders Mike Spillane and Stephen Hawke did not try to block the early execution.
A spokeswoman for Spillane and Hawke told The Atlantic that “both courts were aware that the execution would proceed once all stays had been lifted. No stay of execution was in effect at time of the execution.”
While technically true, it's not clear why Smulls' attorneys would tell the state of Missouri to execute their client even though the US Supreme Court had not ruled yet.
Fox 2 Now reports that Smulls was found guilty of murdering a jewelry store owner and wounding the man's wife during a 1991 robbery.
Smulls' lawyers claimed that the state of Missouri was using an unregulated drug for the lethal injection and refused to say who made the drug.
However, a federal appeals court ruled last Friday that Missouri did not have to reveal the type of drug or who manufactured it. The US Supreme Court refused to hear the case.