It was a setup. Smulls wanted to rob the store and took along a 15-year-old friend to help commit what became a far worse crime: Honickman was shot to death. Honickman's wife, Florence, was also shot but survived by faking death in a pool of her own blood until the assailants left.
Late last night, Smulls was put to death with a lethal dose of pentobarbital, Missouri's third execution since November and the third since switching to the new drug, which is made by a compounding pharmacy the state refuses to name.
Smulls, 56, did not have any final words. The process was brief; Smulls mouthed a few words to his two witnesses, who were not identified, then breathed heavily twice and shut his eyes for good.
He was pronounced dead at 10:20 p.m.
Florence Honickman spoke to the media after the execution, flanked by her adult son and daughter. She questioned why it took 22 years of appeals before Smulls was put to death.
"Make no mistake, the long, winding and painful road leading up to this day has been a travesty of justice," she said.
His attorneys spent the days leading up to the execution filing appeals that questioned the secretive nature of how Missouri obtains the lethal drug, saying that if the drug was inadequate, the inmate could suffer during the execution process. The U.S. Supreme Court granted a temporary stay late Tuesday before clearing numerous appeals yesterday — including the final one that was filed less than 30 minutes before Smulls was pronounced dead, though the denial came about 30 minutes after his death.
When asked about the time between the appeal and the execution, Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman Mike O'Connell said, "I'm not familiar with that."
Like Joseph Paul Franklin in November and Allen Nicklasson in December, Smulls showed no outward signs of distress in an execution process that took about nine minutes.
Missouri had used a three-drug protocol for executions since 1989, but makers stopped selling those drugs for executions. Missouri ultimately switched late last year to a form of pentobarbital made by a compounding pharmacy. The state claims that since the compounding pharmacy is part of the execution team, it is not required to disclose its name.