It looks like nothing will stop the state from executing death row inmate Dennis Skillicorn, but that doesn’t mean his lawyers aren’t trying.
Late this afternoon, Gov. Jay Nixon announced that he decided to deny Skillicorn’s petition for clemency.
“After more than a decade of legal challenges, both the conviction and the death sentence of Dennis Skillicorn have held up under extensive judicial review by the state and federal courts,” Nixon said in a statement.
Skillicorn is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. for his part in the August 1994 murder of Richard Drummond in Lafayette County. Skillicorn was on probation for another Missouri murder when Drummond was murdered.
“The two murders for which Dennis Skillicorn was convicted in Missouri are not his only murder convictions,” Nixon said. “He also received life sentences after pleading guilty to murdering an Arizona couple in 1994, a few days after the Drummond murder.
“These factors were taken into consideration in the clemency process and played a significant role in my decision,” he said. “The jury that convicted Dennis Skillicorn determined that he deserved the most severe punishment under Missouri law, and my decision on clemency upholds the jury’s action.”
Also late this afternoon, Skillicorn filed another motion asking the Missouri Supreme Court to stay his execution. The judges took less than 45 minutes to deny the motion, which raised the question of whether Nixon is violating the Professional Rules of Conduct by essentially assuming the role of a judge as the only person with the discretion to determine whether Skillicorn will live or die.
“If Governor Nixon were, in fact, a judge, due process would prohibit his dual roles,” Skillicorn’s lawyers argue.
“Mr. Skillicorn recognizes that Governor Nixon is not in an adjudicative role,” the lawyers said. “However, he respectfully suggests that the dual roles occupied by the Attorney General-turned-Governor create an ‘appearance of impropriety’ sufficient to merit this Court’s careful scrutiny.”
Skillicorn also appealed to the 8th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals today’s decision by U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey to deny his motion for a preliminary injunction staying his execution. The court had not taken any action on that appeal as of 6 p.m.
A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit today denied a motion for a stay filed directly to that court. Skillicorn’s lawyers have filed for a rehearing before the full court.
Skillicorn also appealed U.S. District Judge Scott O. Wright’s decision to deny a motion to stay. Skillicorn’s lawyers argued to Wright that Nixon should appoint a clemency board to review the prisoner’s petition.
The 8th Circuit dismissed the appeal and rejected Skillicorn’s motion for rehearing en banc.