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Supreme Court denies convicted Missouri killer's appeals

Herbert Smulls, 56, who was scheduled to be executed, on January 29, 2014 is shown in this Missouri Department of Corrections photo. REUTERS
Herbert Smulls, 56, who was scheduled to be executed, on January 29, 2014 is shown in this Missouri Department of Corrections photo. REUTERS

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday lifted a temporary stay of execution for a Missouri man convicted of killing a jewelry store owner during a 1991 robbery, denying last-minute appeals.

Herbert Smulls, 56, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection Wednesday at a Missouri state prison, had been granted the stay on a series of challenges including the drugs to be used in his execution.

A lawyer for Smulls, Cheryl Pilate, and a spokesman for the state corrections department said a separate stay of execution remained in effect in the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Smulls' lawyers had argued that the drugs to be used, including a lethal dose of the fast-acting barbiturate pentobarbital obtained from a compounding pharmacy, could subject him to cruel and unusual punishment.

His lawyers also argued that a black woman was improperly eliminated as a possible juror by prosecutors during his trial. The Supreme Court's temporary stay came just hours before his execution was to be carried out shortly after midnight on Wednesday.

Smulls was convicted of shooting jewelry-store owner Stephen Honickman to death while robbing his store in July 1991. Honickman's wife, Florence Honickman, was also shot during the attack and sustained permanent injuries.

If the execution is carried out, Smulls would be the sixth person executed in the United States in 2014 and Missouri's third execution since November.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam and Kevin Murphy in Kansas City and Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Prudence Crowther)

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