The lawyer for an Alberta man on death row in the United States said there is hope for his client after a Missouri governor stopped a scheduled execution earlier this month.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon halted a scheduled execution in that state after concerns were raised over the use of the drug propofol as an aid in lethal injections.

The main supplier of the drug, which is also used by anaesthesiologists during surgical procedures, is in Germany and therefore falls under European Union regulations. Because the EU is opposed to the death penalty, propofol cannot be sold to states that use it for lethal injections.

Wishing to preserve the state’s supply of propofol in operating rooms, Nixon ruled the execution in question should not happen until the state's Department of Corrections finds a way to perform lethal injections without using the drug.

This development has given defence lawyer Ron Waterman hope for his client, Ron Smith from Red Deer, Alta.

Smith has been on death row since 1982 after murdering Thomas Running Rabbit and Harvey Mad Man in Montana while he was high on drugs.

Part of a larger trend

Waterman said the Missouri situation is part of a larger U.S. movement against the death penalty.

“Certainly the action of the Missouri Governor is a reflection of a growing trend in the U.S. where all of the states are moving away from capital punishment,” he said.

“I'm quite hopeful about the outcome in that case. We are seeing states are no longer executing people as frequently as they did.  And more and more states are either passing abolition bills and abolishing the death penalty, or are severely reducing the number of instances where the death penalty is applied.”

Smith's death sentence is currently on hold as a judge considers a constitutional challenge.

Waterman said a decision is expected by the end of the year.