Report: State's killings flawed
Recommendations include training for executioners and a review of drugs used.
Linda Kleindienst | Tallahassee Bureau
Posted March 2, 2007
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's executioners need better training, and the mix of chemicals now used in lethal injections should be re-evaluated, a commission charged with reviewing a botched December execution said in a report released Thursday.
Sentenced to die for the murder of a Miami topless-bar manager, Angel Diaz took 34 minutes to die -- about twice the normal time. It also took two doses of lethal drugs to kill him.
BORDER=0&amp;gt;&lt;/A&gt; In its report, the commission set up by former Gov. Jeb Bush was unable to determine whether Diaz, as some witnesses testified, was in pain before he died Dec. 13. But the 11-member panel said prison officials should make sure an inmate is unconscious from the first dose of sedatives before being given drugs designed to paralyze the lungs and then cause a heart attack.
Gov. Charlie Crist thanked the commission for a "thorough review," and said he will work with corrections officials and the Legislature to "ensure the most humane procedures possible."
The report was praised by Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union for "raising the veil" on Florida's lethal-injection procedures, which until now have not been publicly disclosed in detail.
"The commission's findings should give pause to those who assume that the process is orderly, controlled or humane," said Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, director of Amnesty International USA's program to abolish the death penalty. She voiced hopes the report will encourage a re-examination of the death-penalty system.
Bush ordered a moratorium on Florida executions until the commission submitted its final report. Crist gave no indication Thursday as to when he might begin signing death warrants.
While the commission did not formally recommend that Florida change the ingredients in the toxic mixture it now uses in executions, it strongly suggested the state explore "other more recently developed chemicals" and re-evaluate the need for a paralytic drug like pancuronium bromide, which is now the second drug administered.
An anesthesiologist testified before the commission that the drug can leave an improperly sedated inmate in intense pain without being able to express it.
Witnesses said Diaz appeared to be awake, in pain and gasping for breath after the drugs were administered. An autopsy revealed the chemicals had gone into his tissue, not his veins, because of improperly inserted intravenous needles in both arms.
The report calls for better training of execution teams, better communication between them and the warden, closer monitoring of the inmate and a better method for insuring intravenous lines remain in place.