Missouri Execution: Why Did It Take 22 Years To Put Herbert Smulls To Death?

The execution of Herbert Smulls, which took place in Missouri on Wednesday, was the third to take place in the state since November 2013. Smulls was put to death using the new lethal and controversial mix of pentobarbital.

Smulls was pronounced dead at 10:20 p.m., having mouthed a few last words to his witnesses. He breathed heavily and passed away peacefully and not seemingly in pain. But why did it take 22 years to carry out the sentence on Smulls?

Back in 1991, Smulls took a 15-year-old friend along with him to an appointment he set up with jeweler Stephen Honickman at his store in St. Louis. Smulls said he wanted to purchase an engagement ring for his wife-to-be.

When Honickman arrived to the meeting it became clear that the whole thing was a set up as Smulls and his friend turned violent on the unsuspecting Honickman and his wife.

Honickman was shot fatally and the pair proceeded to ransack the place stealing rings, earrings and other valuable jewelry. Honickman’s wife, Florence, who was also shot during the robbery, played dead on the floor as the men took her rings from her fingers.

Florence Honickman said to reporters following the execution of her husband’s killer: “Make no mistake, the long, winding and painful road leading up to this day has been a travesty of justice,” she said.

Bob McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor said that justice had been done in the Missouri execution of Herbert Smulls: “It was a horrific crime. With all the other arguments that the opponents of the death penalty are making, it’s simply to try to divert the attention from what this guy did, and why he deserves to be executed,” he said.

Due to the long and protracted appeals process the Missouri execution of Herbert Smulls was 22 years in coming, and Florence Honickman lived for the last two decades knowing her husband’s killer was alive in jail.