May 19, 2007
Condemned killer protests method as cruel and unusual punishment
BY MABEL PEREZ
Angel Diaz's spiritual adviser testified for the first time onFriday about the convicted killer's botched execution and how the death affected him.
He recalled an emotional phone call to his wife on his drive home and the images of a man who appeared to be struggling to live.
"I told her I had just watched a man be tortured to death," testified Dale Recinella, a volunteer Department of Corrections Catholic lay minister.
Testimony from Recinella and others on Friday was part of a series of hearings being held in the Marion County case of a death row inmate, IanDeco Lightbourne, 47. His lawyers contend the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment and are using the Diaz execution to help prove their case.
Diaz was executed by lethal injection on Dec. 13, 2006. His death took 34 minutes - twice as long as it usually takes. Authorities had to administer a second dose of the lethal drugs to kill him. Executions were halted in Florida pending an investigation of Diaz's death. They are set to resume as early as this month.
Lightbourne was sentenced to death in 1981 for the murder of Marion Countyhorse breeder Nancy O'Farrell.
Recinella knew Diaz since 1998 and was asked to pray with him and console his family. But by the end of the execution, Recinella said he was in shock.
He said it seemed to be a "painful" death. Recinella recalled Diaz's torso arching up and down, his face grimacing. He gasped for air and there appeared to be much tension in his head and neck area.
"He looked at some points as he was trying to speak in a forcefully way ...to the staff and then he began to show signs of his body arching. His torso was arching and ... it seemed like it was an involuntary reaction," the minister testified as he demonstrated Diaz's body movements and facial expressions.
It was the first time Recinella testified about the death. He had refused to testify to a commission studying the execution because of his job -Recinella said he doesn't talk about his ministry unless he's forced to by subpoena. His testimony was similar to that of news accounts of the execution.
In an earlier ruling, journalists were not forced to testify about the case.
Department of Corrections employees told a different version. They say the execution was apparently normal and not as sensationalized as media outlets and the minister have portrayed it to be.
Another witness was Timothy Westveer, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement internal investigations inspector who witnessed the execution.
All executions are witnessed by independent officers from FDLE to ensure the condemned's rights are protected.
Westveer testified the execution took longer than normal and that Diaz's body moved more than those of other people whose lethal injection executions he has witnessed.
At one point, while medical staffers were getting the second dose of chemicals, one told him Diaz was having problems with the drugs because of a liver condition that was metabolizing the chemicals slowly.
He also noticed red marks on Diaz's arms."Yes, I did notice some redness on the inside of his left arm and right arm," he said, referring to a round red mark on one arm and red spiderlike vein patterns on the other.
"It was pretty obvious it was there. It was an attention getter.
"Lightbourne has been scheduled for execution twice before and has beengranted two stays.
He does not currently have a death warrant.
Source : Ocala Star-Banner