Moral Low Ground

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Major Media Misreport Shocking Truth of Herbert Smulls Execution

A false headline, and questionable word spacing, in this CBS/AP report on Smulls' execution.

A false headline, and questionable word spacing, in this CBS/AP report on Smulls’ execution.

Major corporate media outlets misreported a shocking key fact about the execution of a convicted Missouri murderer who was put to death before the US Supreme Court rejected his final appeal.

Not only did the Associated PressReutersTime.comNBC News and other national and local media outlets fail to report that Smulls was executed before all of his legal appeals were exhausted, they falsely reported that the Supreme Court denied his request for a stay before the condemned inmate was killed.

The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen reported the truth, that Smulls was on the phone with his lawyers discussing his last-ditch appeal when he was hauled off and executed fully 24 minutes before the Supreme Court handed down its decision. Smulls was pronounced dead four minutes prior to the Court’s ruling. Some other media outlets, including Think Progress, The Raw Story, Britain’s Daily Mail, The Christian Post, Moral Low Ground, Newser and Digital Journal, ran posts about the true circumstances surrounding Smulls’ execution following the publication of Cohen’s article.

Other media outlets mentioned that the Supreme Court’s denial came about half an hour after Smulls was killed. From Al Jazeera America:

The US Supreme Court granted a temporary stay late Tuesday before clearing numerous appeals Wednesday– including the final one that was filled less than 30 minutes before Smulls was pronounced dead, though the denial came about 30 minutes after his death.

When asked about the time between the appeal and the execution, Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman Mike O’Connell said, “I’m not familiar with that.”

CBS News also reported on the discrepancy between the time of execution and the time of the Supreme Court’s decision, although that network ran the headline ‘Missouri Executes Man After Appeals Denied.’

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