Thursday, 1 March 2007

Report to suggest exploring different execution options

Report to suggest exploring different execution options

Published March 1, 2007

TAMPA - The commission studying Florida's lethal injection procedures will recommend that state officials review if there is a better way to execute condemned inmates than the three-drug cocktail used now.

In a report due to Gov. Charlie Crist today, the 11-person commission will recommend a number of changes to state execution procedures.

The panel was formed after the Dec. 13 execution of Angel Diaz took twice as long as normal and caused footlong chemical burns in his arms.

Panelists believe their recommended changes could ensure that future executions aren't botched. But in a conference call meeting Wednesday, some said they believe the state should explore whether there are other drugs that could be used.

Florida's cocktail, which is used in all other states that use lethal injection, starts with a powerful sedative that causes unconsciousness. That is followed by a drug that causes paralysis and one that causes a fatal heart attack.

Both the second and third drug can cause pain and suffering if the first drug is not properly administered. It's important that the inmate not feel unnecessary pain and suffering because that is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

The panel ultimately decided it could not say for sure if Diaz, 55, felt any pain. Execution team members said they saw no signs he was in pain, but some witnesses reported he grimaced, winced and clenched his jaw.

Much of the concern about the three-drug cocktail surrounds the second drug. That drug could render an inmate paralyzed and unable to express pain if something went wrong with the first drug. The execution team would be left with a false belief that the death had gone smoothly.

The drug is designed to prevent the inmate's body from involuntary shudders and convulsions that could seem unpleasant to witnesses.

"We can't escape the fact that the entire issue in this case ... was whether in this execution the inmate was subject to unnecessary infliction of pain," said Circuit Judge Stan Morris, a panel member. "And we can't determine that ... because of the second drug."

The panel wants the state to determine if there is another way that would be less complex than the current three-drug cocktail. But it did not say the current process was irreparably flawed.

[Last modified March 1, 2007, 00:48:26]

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