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Supreme Court refuses to block execution of Missouri teen's killer

By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court late on Tuesday denied an 11th-hour flurry of petitions seeking to stay the execution of convicted killer Michael Taylor, who was slated to die by lethal injection in a Missouri prison shortly after midnight.

Taylor, 47, condemned for the rape and stabbing death of a teenager 25 years ago, would mark Missouri's 72nd execution since 1976 and the second this year.

In a series of recent appeals, attorneys for Taylor have sought a stay of execution based on several claims, including the assertion that the drugs used for lethal injection could subject him to a slow and tortuous death.

His attorneys also argue that when Taylor pleaded guilty in 1991 he should have been offered a life sentence instead of death, or at least a sentencing by a jury instead of a judge.

And Missouri should allow appeals to be exhausted before they proceed with the execution, they say.

The state has been criticized by death penalty opponents and a federal judge for putting condemned inmates to death while petitions for a stay were still pending.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday night denied several petitions for a last-minute stay or further judicial review sought on Taylor's behalf by his attorney, John Simon, who said he had no plans to file further pleadings in the case.

The string of terse denials, issued for the high court by Justice Samuel Alito, presumably cleared the way for Taylor's execution to proceed as scheduled.

Governor Jay Nixon refused earlier in the day to grant Taylor clemency.

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 December 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.

If his execution is carried out it would come 25 years after he and an accomplice raped and stabbed to death 15-year-old Ann Harrison. The men abducted her from a bus stop and terrorized her before putting her in a car trunk and killing her.

Linda Taylor, Michael Taylor's mother, issued a statement with other family members stating Taylor has great remorse for his crime. The family does not want to see Taylor executed and Linda Taylor has said that life in prison should be sufficient punishment.

Janel Harrison, mother of the victim, said the execution is needed justice for her daughter.

"There should be an ultimate penalty," Harrison said.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Steve Gorman and Lisa Shumaker)

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