- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Missouri’s Supreme Court on Monday scheduled the execution of a man convicted of killing a good Samaritan 15 years ago, as his attorneys seek to prevent Gov. Jay Nixon from deciding the condemned man’s clemency request.

The execution of Dennis Skillicorn, set for May 20, would be the first in Missouri since October 2005.

His scheduled execution last year was put on hold over claims that prison officials obstructed the preparation of a clemency petition.

A request filed to a federal judge last week argues Nixon, when he was attorney general, was involved in blocking defense access to Department of Corrections staff witnesses, and should not be the person deciding his clemency now, attorney Jennifer Merrigan said.

“We believe he cannot meaningfully consider that evidence,” she said. The defense wants the court to convene a board of inquiry instead to determine if Skillicorn should serve life in prison, rather than be executed.

Nixon said in a statement that he fully appreciates the gravity of the death penalty and would carefully review Skillicorn’s case. The governor also asked that Missourians remember the victim, Richard Drummond, and keep his family in their prayers.

In 1994, Drummond stopped on Interstate 70 to help Skillicorn and two other men when their car broke down in Callaway County. They forced him at gunpoint to drive them toward the Kansas City area. They took him into woods in Lafayette County, and he was shot twice in the head.

The admitted gunman, Allen Nicklasson, was also sentenced to death. He has maintained all along that he acted alone and says Skillicorn’s life should be spared. The third defendant was 17 at the time and was sent to prison after pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Supporters have sought to keep Skillicorn alive, arguing that his work with terminally ill prisoners and a family-strengthening program for inmates and their children proves society is better with him alive.

Former Lafayette County prosecutor Page Bellamy told The Associated Press previously that Skillicorn took Drummond’s wallet before ordering a co-defendant to “empty the clip” in Drummond’s head.

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