By Carey Gillam
KANSAS CITY, Mo., Feb 25 (Reuters) - Missouri officials on Tuesday were fending off a flurry of late appeals from convicted killer Michael Taylor as they prepared for his execution by lethal injection shortly after midnight.
Under the state protocol, 47-year-old Taylor will receive his last meal and be dressed in simple gray pants and a T-shirt and socks before being escorted to the death chamber.
The execution would mark Missouri's 72nd since 1976 and the second this year. State officials are under fire for executing other inmates before their last appeals are exhausted.
In a series of recent appeals, attorneys for Taylor have sought a stay of execution based on several claims, including that the drugs used for lethal injection could subject him to a slow and tortuous death.
His attorneys also argue that when Taylor pleaded guilty in 1991 he should have been offered a life sentence instead of death, or at least a sentencing by a jury instead of a judge.
And Missouri should allow appeals to be exhausted before they proceed with the execution, they say.
The state has been criticized by death penalty opponents and a federal judge for not waiting for rulings on appeals before carrying out recent executions.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit had not completed its review of Allen Nicklasson's request for a stay based on a challenge to Missouri's lethal injection drug protocol when he was put to death Dec. 11.
Eighth Circuit Judge Kermit Bye said in a written ruling after Nicklasson's execution that Missouri's actions should undergo intense judicial scrutiny.
Bye questioned Missouri's secrecy over the use of a lightly regulated compounding pharmacy to obtain drugs for executions, and for proceeding with an execution before the federal courts had finished reviewing an active request for a stay.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has defended the state's actions and said in a statement that Taylor has had more than enough time to file appeals on any issue and his sentence has been upheld repeatedly by the Missouri Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court.
"It is ridiculous to suggest that Mr. Taylor should avoid his execution by filing a flood of new paperwork ...," Koster said.
Taylor was nearly executed in 2006 before a late court-ordered reprieve after revelations about problems with the state's lethal injection practices at that time.
If his execution is carried out it would come 25 years after he and an accomplice raped and stabbed to death 15-year-old Ann Harrison, a Kansas City-area school girl. The men abducted her from a bus stop and terrorized her before putting her in a car trunk and killing her.
Linda Taylor, Michael Taylor's mother, issued a statement with other family members stating Taylor has great remorse for his crime. The family does not want to see Taylor executed and Linda Taylor has said that life in prison should be sufficient punishment.
Janel Harrison, mother of Ann Harrison, said the execution is needed justice for her daughter.
"There should be an ultimate penalty," Harrison said.
(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Richard Chang)