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Missouri could set an execution record

By JIM SALTER Associated Press

ST. LOUIS - Missouri is on pace for a record number of executions in 2014, with two more inmates on the verge of getting their execution dates.

The Missouri Supreme Court on Thursday issued show cause orders in the cases of Leon Taylor and Michael Worthington. The orders give attorneys for the two men until April 14 to show why an execution date should not be set. Missouri executed two men late last year and has already put to death two other convicted killers in the first two months of 2014 - Herbert Smulls in January and Michael Taylor in February.

Jeffrey Ferguson is scheduled to die March 26 for abducting and killing a teenager in St. Charles County in 1989. In addition to Taylor and Worthington, the Supreme Court has issued show cause orders for five other death row inmates, meaning their execution dates could be set soon. Missouri's highest number of executions in a year was nine in 1999. The state executed eight men in 1938 and seven in 2001.

Executions slowed considerably in the mid-2000s as courts weighed lawsuits questioning whether lethal drugs could cause cruel and unusual punishment.

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