USCA-DC Denies Stay for Child Killer

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit yesterday denied a stay of execution for Keith Nelson. According to the DOJ Press Release of June 15, “Keith Dwayne Nelson kidnapped a 10-year-old girl rollerblading in front of her home, and in a forest behind a church, raped her and strangled her to death with a wire.”

Nelson now claims he will suffer too much pain in the very brief interval between the time he is injected with a massive overdose of pentobarbital and the time he becomes insensate to pain as a result. Both the court of appeals decision and the district court decision are based on the Supreme Court’s July 14 ruling regarding other murderers in the same civil case that the plaintiffs are not likely to succeed on the merits of their Eighth Amendment claim.

Two years ago, upon completion of the regular appeals, the Kansas City Star had this article by Tony Rizzo.

Nelson, now 44, kidnapped Pamela Butler, who was rollerblading near her house when Nelson grabbed her, threw her into a pickup truck and sped away.

Two of her sisters witnessed the kidnapping, including Casey Eaton, who in 2017 was fatally shot near where Pamela had been taken.

Several days after Pamela was kidnapped, her body was found in a wooded area in Grain Valley. Nelson was the subject of a widely-publicized manhunt, and his arrest was broadcast live on television.

Nelson was linked to the crime by DNA, and in 2001 he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Kansas City to a charge of interstate kidnapping resulting in death.

He was subsequently sentenced to death. At his sentencing hearing, Nelson showed no remorse and unleashed a “profanity-laden tirade” in court, according to Wednesday’s appeals court ruling.

For many years, the single-drug method with pentobarbital was touted by inmates challenging other methods as the superior method that it was unconstitutional for a state not to adopt in lieu of the one it had. So of course when a jurisdiction adopts it, the capital defense bar digs up an expert who will swear it is extremely painful, contradicting the defense experts in the earlier cases.

Is there any chance that Nelson will suffer even 1% of the pain that Pamela suffered? I doubt it. I expect he will experience considerably less pain in death than the average law-abiding person who dies of disease, accident, or murder.