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Death row inmate requests independent clemency review

ST. LOUIS - The next Missouri inmate scheduled to die by lethal injection wants Gov. Jay Nixon to appoint an independent panel to review his clemency request under a little-used provision in state law that hasn't been invoked in nearly two decades.

John Middleton, 54, is scheduled to be executed July 16 at the state prison in Bonne Terre. The onetime methamphetamine dealer was convicted in the 1995 drug-related killings of three people in northern Missouri. His conviction in the death of Iowa resident Alfred Pinegar was cited as an aggravating factor justifying the death sentences he received for the two subsequent murder convictions.

The petition for an independent Board of Inquiry argues that the governor cannot impartially rule on Middleton's request to commute his death sentence since Nixon was the state's attorney general for 16 years, including when Middleton stood trial.

That alternative is allowed under Missouri law but has been invoked rarely, most recently in 1997 when former Gov. Mel Carnahan appointed a panel to review the death sentence given to William Theodore Boliek Jr.

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