ST. LOUIS — Two of the nation's most active death penalty states are planning executions Wednesday, even as attorneys for the condemned men try to save them.
Earl Ringo Jr. is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. for killing two people during a robbery at a Columbia, Missouri, restaurant in 1998. Hours later, Texas plans to execute Willie Trottie for fatally shooting his common-law wife and her brother in Houston in 1993.
The executions would be the eighth this year in both states. Florida also has performed seven executions in 2014. All other states have a combined six executions.
Both Missouri and Texas use pentobarbital as their execution drug but decline to disclose where the drug is obtained.
"They don't tell you what it is and where it comes from," Trottie told The Associated Press. "What I've learned in 20 years here on death row is all you can do is say, 'OK.'
"I'm ready whichever way it goes. If God says, 'Yes,' I'm ready."
Ringo, 40, did not immediately respond to interview requests. He and another man robbed a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Columbia where Ringo previously worked, ambushing a deliveryman and manager trainee in the early-morning hours of July 4, 1998.
The accomplice, Quentin Jones, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was spared the death penalty by agreeing to testify against Ringo, the mastermind of the crime.
An appeal in U.S. District Court in Kansas City has asked that the execution be postponed until a hearing can determine whether Missouri's use of a pre-execution sedative is actually part of the execution process and violates the inmate's constitutional rights. Attorneys for Ringo say the dose of midazolam, also known by the brand name Versed, could make it difficult for the inmate to express any pain he might feel during the process.
"If the drug (the sedative) renders him incompetent, we want to know why they're doing that to him immediately before the execution proceeds," Ringo's attorney, Richard Sindel, said Monday.
In a response filed in court, the Missouri Attorney General's Office said Ringo "has long been aware that Missouri uses Versed and valium as pre-execution sedatives."
Midazolam has come under scrutiny after it was used in problematic executions earlier this year in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona. In each case, witnesses said the inmates gasped after their executions began and continued to labor for air before being pronounced dead.
Separately, Ringo's attorneys have asked Gov. Jay Nixon to grant clemency on several grounds, including concerns that race played a role in his death sentence. Ringo is black; he was convicted and sentenced by an all-white jury.
Trottie, who turned 45 Monday, shot and killed 24-year-old Barbara Canada, and her 28-year-old brother, Titus, at the Canada family home in Houston. Canada's mother and sister were wounded.
Lawyers for Trottie argued in their appeal that the one-time deliveryman and security guard suffered poor representation in his initial trial when his counsel failed to present witnesses who would have told jurors Trottie and Barbara Canada were romantically engaged at the time of the killings. Late Monday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal.
Trottie said he and Barbara Canada were on "good terms" despite an on-again, off-again relationship. Trottie said he was defending himself against Titus Canada, who shot first. He said the shooting of his wife was accidental.
"It wasn't like I just walked in there and gunned her down," he said.
Johnny Sutton, the lead prosecutor at Trottie's trial, said evidence showed that's exactly what happened.
"He hunted them down," Sutton said. "The self-defense claim is absolutely ridiculous. He kicked in their door. ... They already were worried about him. He was making threats and trying to run her off the road.
"This one was so cold and calculated."
Graczyk reported from Houston.