But a detective who helped break the case scoffed at the appeal Monday, saying Roderick Nunley should have been put to death long ago.
Nunley and a co-defendant were accused of kidnapping Ann Harrison as she waited for a school bus in Kansas City, then raping and killing the girl in 1989. If the courts don't step in, the 50-year-old Nunley will be lethally injected at 6 p.m. Tuesday and become the sixth inmate executed this year in Missouri.
Defense attorney Jennifer Herndon argued in an appeal that capital punishment, "under prevailing standards of decency," violates the U.S. Constitution's 8th Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.
But retired Kansas City detective Pete Edlund said the only thing cruel and unusual is how long Nunley and his co-defendant Michael Taylor, who was executed last year, remained on death row.
"They just take forever to do the deed," Edlund told The Associated Press in an interview this week. "The delay in executing these two is just nuts because it didn't have anything to do with their guilt. It was legal mumbo jumbo nonsense."
In a new appeal filed Monday, Herndon challenged the state's refusal to disclose who makes its execution drug or how it is tested. The argument has been rejected by the Supreme Court in other death penalty cases.
Gov. Jay Nixon is reviewing a clemency petition from an anti-death penalty group that alleges racial bias played a role in the case because a prosecutor refused a plea deal that would have given Nunley life in prison without parole. Nunley is black, as was Taylor, while the victim was white.
Prosecutors said Nunley and Taylor binged on cocaine and stole a car in the pre-dawn hours of March 22, 1989. At one point, a police officer from neighboring Lee's Summit chased the car but was called off by a supervisor when the stolen car crossed into Kansas City.
Later that morning, the men were driving around Kansas City when they saw Ann standing on her driveway, waiting for a school bus. Taylor and Nunley quickly grabbed the 15-year-old girl and took her to Nunley's mother's home. She was raped and sodomized, then stabbed repeatedly in the stomach and the neck.
Taylor and Nunley put her body in the trunk of the stolen car, then abandoned it in a residential area. The body was found three days later.
Edlund, the detective, said the case was cracked months later when a man in jail for robbery — and seeking a $10,000 reward in the case — snitched on Taylor and Nunley. Both men confessed.
Meanwhile, some of Ann's hair was found in carpeting at the home where the crime occurred.
Edlund said the killing was haunting for several reasons, chiefly because she was a child and a random target. Her father was a former reserve officer with the police department, and her uncle was a Kansas City officer.
"To all of us, she was part of our police family," Edlund said. "That made it even more important that we solve the case."