Monday, 29 January 2007

Warden: Inmate showed no signs of pain in botched execution

Warden: Inmate showed no signs of pain in botched execution

TAMPA, Florida: A convicted killer whose execution was botched last year was never in any pain, the death row prison's supervising warden told a panel reviewing Florida's lethal injection procedures Monday.

But the man's lawyer said his client was clearly hurting from the incorrectly injected chemicals.

Questions about whether lethal injection is inhumane have put executions on hold in nine states — Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota.

The death of Angel Nieves Diaz took 34 minutes — twice as long as usual — and required a rare second dose of lethal chemicals because the needles were incorrectly inserted, a medical examiner reported. An autopsy found chemical burns in both his arms.

Death penalty opponents point to Diaz's execution to support their claims that Florida's lethal injection procedure violates the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Condemned inmates have also pursued that issue in court, but to no avail.

Diaz's lawyer, Neal Dupree, told the commission his client was clearly in pain.

"He almost appeared to be a fish out of water," Dupree said. "He was gasping. And that went on for a period of about 10 to 12 minutes. You could see body movement. You could see clutching and unclutching."

Several people on the prison's execution team have said Diaz said "What's happening?" twice during the process.

But Diaz appeared to be straining to see a clock, not grimacing in pain, Florida State Prison Warden Randall Bryant told the commission.

"He had the opportunity to be able to scream, cry, yell and that sort of thing and that did not happen," said Bryant, who stood about 2 feet (0.6 meters) away during the Dec. 13 execution.

Officials testified Monday the prison medical team was satisfied with the insertion of the needles.

Commission members asked to hear from the executioners and medical team, whose identities are closely guarded by the Florida Department of Corrections. American Medical Association guidelines bar doctors from taking part, directly or indirectly, in executions.

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Associated Press writer Ron Word in Jacksonville contributed to this report.

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