Wednesday, 29 August 2007
Hearing begins in state challenge to capital punishment
BY MABEL PEREZ
OCALA - Attorneys for Ian Lightbourne took a field trip Tuesday to Florida State Prison to view the execution chamber and chemical rooms involved in the lethal injection procedure.
Today, they will question warden Timothy Cannon, the warden in charge of future executions, about protocols and policy in light of the botched Angel Diaz execution and the recently updated lethal injection manual.
The hearing begins at 8:15 a.m. in front of Circuit Judge Carven Angel in the Marion County Courthouse and will last through Friday. Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Nunnelley will also have a chance to present witnesses.
In September, Angel is expected to rule whether Florida's current execution procedure is "cruel and unusual." Last month, the judge ordered the Department of Corrections to rewrite portions of its manual and to specifically detail the role of each execution team member.
In December, it took Angel Diaz 34 minutes to die after an unusual second dose of chemicals. Then-Gov. Jeb Bush suspended all Florida executions later that month after a medical examiner said prison officials botched the insertion of the needles.
The botched execution prompted officials to look at the execution procedures and also caused the Capital Collateral Regional Office, which represents dozens of death row inmates, to file petitions on behalf of all its clients claiming the penalty was cruel and unusual. The same day, Dec. 14, the Supreme Court chose the Lightbourne case to examine on this issue.
The Ocala judge must make a ruling on the execution issue by September. Angel's ruling will come just two months before the first scheduled execution. The Supreme Court wants to review Angel's ruling, court transcripts and other testimony from the Ocala hearings.
Last month, Gov. Charlie Crist signed a death warrant for Mark Schwab, 38, who was sentenced to death in 1992 for the kidnapping, rape and murder of an 11-year-old child.
Lightbourne, 47, was sentenced to death in 1981 for the murder of Marion County horse breeder Nancy O'Farrell, the daughter of a prominent horse farming family.
Schwab is scheduled to die in November. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Schwab and Lightbourne cases in October.
Tuesday, CCR lawyers argued about which witnesses could testify, public records requests and other items related to the background of people on the execution team.
Suzanne Keffer, of CCR, argued that people on the execution team should testify to talk about what happens in the chamber and their backgrounds.
"These people are directly responsible, who are directly making those decisions .Ê.Ê. and directly involved in the Angel Diaz execution," Keffer said.
Angel ruled that CCR can't call those witnesses.
Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Nunnelley appeared annoyed at times. At one point he called CCR's requests "ridiculous." The prosecutor thinks Lightbourne's lawyers are going overboard in their evidence requests.
"We don't have to look at .Ê.Ê. the execution chamber when we have photographs available," he said. Nunnelley criticized CCR for wanting to photograph the area themselves rather than use DOC photos.
Keffer argued that DOC had a specific bias or interest.
Angel sided with the defense. Still, DOC officials felt attorneys taking photographs created security problems and instead offered to take photographs for the private lawyers at their request. The lawyers who requested to take photographs are the same lawyers who regularly visit their clients on death row.
Mabel Perez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 867-4106.