Panel: Governor should review lethal injection chemicals
TAMPA, Fla. - A commission reviewing last year's botched lethal injection execution debated how far they could go in suggesting Gov. Charlie Crist change Florida's execution process into the final hours of their charter Wednesday night.The 11-member panel's final report on what went wrong with Dec. 13 execution of Angel Diaz is due on Crist's desk Thursday.
Diaz, 55, took twice as long as usual to die. The execution also required a rare second dose of lethal drugs, including a painful paralytic that a few commissioners felt was responsible for the panel's inability to determine if Diaz suffered during the 34-minute execution.
An anesthesiologist told the panel that pancuronium bromide has the potential to leave an improperly sedated inmate in intense agony without the ability to show it.
"If the (pancuronium bromide) had not been administered, they would have known right away whether or not this inmate was conscious when they got to the third drug," Circuit Judge Stan Morris said. "And that's my point with this. That is what is going to occur in every execution ... so at some point, somebody's got to deal with this issue."
Not all the commissioners agreed.
"This is outside the scope of what we're being asked to do," said state Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa. "It isn't our place to be reinventing the execution process."
A majority of the panel settled on a suggestion that Gov. Crist ask prison officials to routinely investigate "less problematic" alternatives for sodium pentothal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride - the chemicals used to sedate, paralyze and kill inmates. The last two drugs are known to cause intense pain in conscious patients.
A key commission recommendation was that the execution team ensure the inmate is unconscious before the second and third extremely painful chemicals are injected.
"Under no circumstances should the executioner continue with the second and third lethal substance without the warden's authorization," a draft of the commission report said.
The commission found it was not clear if Diaz was properly sedated when the painful drugs were injected into his body. An autopsy found the needles were pushed through Diaz's veins into the flesh of his arms, possibly limiting the effectiveness of all three drugs.
The report calls for increased training for state execution teams and a clear protocol to be created that defines the lethal injection process. The report also suggests prison staff find a way to ensure the intravenous lines stay in place throughout the procedure.
The commission also recommended better supervision of the execution, including radio communication between the execution team and the warden, closed circuit monitoring so executioners can clearly see the inmate and an additional FDLE agent to provide an alternative account from the witness area. Prison officials disputed media and witness accounts that Diaz appeared to grimace and gasp as the execution dragged.
A second FDLE agent would keep a detailed log of the activities of the execution team."We've done a good job," Sen. Crist said near the end of Wednesday's final meeting. "I think we gave them more than they expected us to do."
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