A Missouri man was executed early on Wednesday for abducting a 15-year-old girl as she waited for a school bus, then raping and murdering her, authorities said after the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a flurry of petitions seeking a stay.
Michael Taylor died by lethal injection 25 years after he and an accomplice killed Ann Harrison near her home in the Kansas City area.
The 47-year-old had pleaded guilty. But his attorneys launched a string of appeals, including one asserting the drugs used for lethal injection could subject him to a slow and tortuous death.
"The abduction of Ann ... and her subsequent rape and murder, were crimes so brutal that they remain seared in the minds of many Kansas City residents," said Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who had refused to grant Taylor clemency earlier in the day.
Taylor made no last statement and was pronounced dead at 12:10 a.m. local time at a prison in Bonne Terre, said Mike O'Connell, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety.
He also did not use his right to request a specific last meal and was served potato soup and a sandwich, O'Connell added.
It was the state's 72nd execution since the death penalty was reinstated there in the 1970s and the second this year.
"It may be a small victory for the State of Missouri but Michael has won in the end," Taylor's family said in a statement reported by the Kansas City Star newspaper.
"He has struggled for years with the guilt of not stopping a horrendous crime, and has dedicated much of his time in prison to the memory of Ann Harrison through his work with hospice, tutoring and mentoring inside and outside the prison walls," the statement said.
Before the execution, Ann's mother Janel Harrison also made a public statement, asking for justice. "There should be an ultimate penalty," she said.
Taylor's lawyers had also argued he should have been offered a life sentence, or at least a sentencing by a jury instead of a judge - and said that Missouri should allow all appeals to be exhausted before they proceeded with the execution.
Death penalty opponents and a federal judge have criticized the state for putting condemned inmates to death while petitions for a stay are still pending.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had not completed its review of previous death row inmate Allen Nicklasson's request for a stay based on a challenge to Missouri's lethal injection drug protocol when he was executed on Dec. 11.
Circuit Judge Kermit Bye said in a written ruling after Nicklasson's execution that Missouri's actions should undergo intense judicial scrutiny.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has defended the state's actions and said in a statement that Taylor has had more than enough time to file appeals on any issue, and that his sentence has been upheld repeatedly by the Missouri Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court.
"It is ridiculous to suggest that Mr. Taylor should avoid his execution by filing a flood of new paperwork," Koster said.
Taylor was narrowly spared from execution in 2006 by a late court-ordered reprieve after revelations about problems with the state's lethal injection practices at that time.