State Senator May Request Audiotaping Of Executions
Published: Jan 30, 2007
TAMPA - State Sen. Victor Crist helped write Florida's law on lethal injections, and he said Monday that he may ask lawmakers to allow recordings of the state's secretive execution process.
Crist is a member of a commission created to study the execution of Angel Nieves Diaz, who took 34 minutes to die.
The panel listened Monday to more than three hours of testimony from prison personnel and Diaz's attorney about the December execution. Prison officials contended nothing other than the amount of time it took for Diaz to die seemed out of the ordinary.
Diaz's attorney, Neal Dupree, told the panel his client appeared to be in pain throughout the process.
Crist, R-Tampa, expressed concern after the meeting that no one in the room with Diaz spoke Spanish. Florida State Prison Warden Randall Bryant said he heard Diaz muttering but could not make out the words.
Crist is one of two lawmakers on the 11-member panel, which met for the first time Monday in Tampa. The group is supposed to deliver recommendations by March on how to change the lethal injection process.
The veteran lawmaker was one of the key authors of the bill that made lethal injection the preferred method of execution in Florida.
Crist said he is considering asking lawmakers to amend the state's lethal injection laws to provide for an interpreter throughout the execution. Bryant told the panel that an interpreter translated the warrant authorizing Diaz's death but was not present throughout the procedure.
Crist said he may ask lawmakers to require audio recordings of executions.
For its inquiry, the governor's Commission on Administration of Lethal Injection is relying on the memories of prison personnel who witnessed Diaz's execution. No recording devices are allowed in the state's death chamber, which is at Florida State Prison near Starke.
In at least one instance during Monday's meeting, a prison official's recollection of the procedure clashed with an official report.
William F. Matthews, a physician's assistant who has worked at the prison for 26 years, said a medical worker replaced an intravenous line in Diaz's arm at a lower point than the original insertion. A report says the second line was placed higher on Diaz's arm.
"From what I saw, it was down," Matthews said. "They say it was up. It's a matter of opinion."
His testimony did not significantly conflict with what other prison officials, including Bryant, said they recalled about Diaz's execution.
Commission members said Monday that they want to hear from more witnesses, including the executioner and other medical staff.
The medical staff will be allowed to testify by telephone to protect their identities.
The panel also wants to hear from the medical examiner who reviewed Diaz's body after the execution. A preliminary autopsy showed that the IV needles were improperly inserted and Diaz had chemical burns on both arms.
The medical examiner likely will not testify until final toxicology reports are released.
Diaz, 55, was convicted of the 1979 murder of the manager of a topless bar in Miami.
His attorney jeered Monday at prison officials' assertion that Diaz did not appear to be in pain during the execution and was cocking his head back to look at a clock that was behind his head.
"He was looking at a clock? What, was he late for an appointment? Come on, that's ridiculous," Dupree said.
Monday's meeting was also attended by Diaz's relatives. His niece, Sol Otero, said she thought prison officials were more interested in preserving their protocol for lethal injections than changing them.
"They tortured him," she said.
Crist, who has witnessed executions, said he wants to hear from as many witnesses to execution as possible.
Crist acknowledged he began Monday feeling that Diaz's execution was botched, a feeling that changed as the hearing went on.
"I went from thinking, 'What went wrong?' to 'How can we do this better?'" Crist said.
Information from the Associated Press and News Channel 8 was used in this report. Reporter Anthony McCartney can be reached at (813) 259-7616 or firstname.lastname@example.org.