On Monday, I mentioned the Michael Worthington case. Pleading guilty to rape and murder, he was sentenced to death. The execution apparently went off without a hitch early this morning. Yesterday, the Court rejected his appeal for a stay on the standard 5-4 vote you see in this cases.
It’s not the most common thing in the world for someone to plead guilty and still receive a sentence of death. It’s also rare for someone to be executed based on factors determined by a judge rather than a jury, after Ring v. Arizona. Put simply, aggravating factors that would make someone eligible for execution must be examined by a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s actually kind of a mess state-by-state, so I might try to find time to go into how it’s applied in Indiana in more detail. It doesn’t really matter in this case, though. Worthington clearly and voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial, so Ring didn’t apply.
Worthington was Missouri’s seventh executed prisoner of 2014, and 77th since the Court lifted the ban on executions in 1976 in Gregg v. Georgia. That ranks Missouri 5th overall (Missouri’s first post-Gregg execution wasn’t until 1989) and tied with Texas and Florida for the most so far this year.
Indiana has one execution technically scheduled for later this year, but the appeals process will end up pushing the date back, likely years. Thirteen other people have been sentenced to die in Indiana but do not currently have execution dates set.