Botched Execution -- Botched Protocol? By Roxanne Escobales

02/19/07
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday

Last December, condemned inmate Angel Diaz died in what many call a “botched” execution. Just four months before Diaz’s death, the state released a formal protocol, detailing the steps to be used in executions. That includes the doses and order of chemicals to be used. As WMNF’s Roxanne Escobales reports, today the panel reviewing the state’s lethal injection procedures heard from a member of the execution team that that protocol was not followed in the death of Angel Diaz.

 

The role of executioner is highly guarded, and the identities of those who participate are guarded by law. And so the voices of  members of the execution team who gave evidence for the Governor’s Commission on Administration of Lethal Injection were modified, to a creepy effect.

 

ACT:

 

For ethical reasons, doctors are not allowed to participate in killing people – even in state mandated deaths. In this exchange you will hear commission chair Bill Jennings of the Capital Collateral Counsel asking the member of the execution team about his medical qualifications, the execution team member answering and then Max Changis, the lawyer for the Department of Corrections. During the questioning, Jennings rubbed his eyes with frustration.

 

ACT:

 

Angel Diaz’s autopsy revealed that IV’s in either arm had punctured the vein, and the chemicals injected into him burned these limbs for about a foot on each side. The commission questioned the medically qualified execution team member about the site of the IV. He answered that in Florida executions, there has never before been any problems with the IV site.

 

ACT:

 

The person in charge of pushing the chemicals into the veins through the IV noticed more resistance than usual. So, the team took the chemicals, which need to be given in a certain order, and continued on the other arm. When they had problems on that arm, they moved back to the first arm. By this time, Angel Diaz had been given almost two successions of the drug course used in lethal injection. But commission member Judge Stan Morris noticed they had skipped one of the drugs in the second course.

 

ACT:

 

In the Department of Corrections’ investigation into the execution, three members of the execution team report that Angel Diaz asked “what’s happening” twice during the procedure. Those witnessing the execution from a separate observation room say they saw Diaz wince in pain and gasp for air during the injection. Yet members of the execution team said they did not see such things. Dr Bonita Sorenson was part of the D-O-C investigation. Sorenson said that the protocol calls for an immediate debriefing after the execution but in this case it did not in fact take place until the next morning.

 

ACT:

 

Just after the execution, the D-O-C chalked up the length of time it took for Angel Diaz to die after the injections, and the problems with the injections on Diaz’s poor liver function. It wasn’t until after the autopsy that it was found that the IV’s had pierced through the veins, and the chemicals were released into the soft tissue of his arm, slowing down the absorption rate and causing burning. The director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Mark Elliott, says although limited, the commission’s work is valuable.

 

ACT:

 

The commission will meet again for a workshop in Tampa on Saturday.

 

Roxanne Escobales. WMNF News. Tampa.

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