Florida Supreme Court: Lethal injection is not cruel

11/01/07 Mitch E. Perry
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The Florida Supreme Court today ruled unanimously that the state’s procedure for carrying out execution by lethal injection does not conflict with the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The ruling may clear the wary for the execution scheduled this month of Mark Dean Schwab, one of two inmates who have challenged the way Florida administers lethal injections to condemned prisoners. The other is Ian Deco Lightbourne.

The issue is also under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is considering a similar issue in a case from Kentucky. That court has allowed only one execution to be carried out since it agreed to hear the Kentucky case.

Ty Alper, associate director of the Death Penalty Clinic at the UC Berkeley School of Law, said the Supreme Court is evaluating what standard will be used to determine whether the three-drug cocktail used by Kentucky, Florida, and 35 other states constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Schwab was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1991 kidnap, rape and strangulation of 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez of Cocoa. For the past 15 years, Schwab has lived in a 6-by-9-foot cell at Florida State Prison in Starke.

Gov. Charlie Crist signed the Schwab's death warrant in July, marking the end of a seven-month halt of execution since the botched execution in December of Angel Diaz. It took 34 minutes for Diaz to die after prison officials failed to properly insert intravenous needles into him. Some witnesses reported Diaz appeared to grimace in pain as the execution dragged on.

The state responded by requiring more staff training and better monitoring of proceedings in the death chamber.

Alper from the death penalty clinic at UC Berkeley says the Florida Supreme Court says that’s a sufficient enough review to begin executing death row inmates.

Mark Elliot is with the group Floridians For Alternatives to the Death Penalty. He doesn’t believe anything has changed in terms of the problems administering lethal injection in state executions.

In its ruling, the Florida Supreme Court said the warden would now go into access the consciousness of the inmate before the protocol is administered and before the inmate is paralyzed and can’t show pain.

Mark Schwab is scheduled to be executed on Nov. 15.

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