Wednesday, 29 August 2007
BY MABEL PEREZ
OCALA - Attorneys for Ian Lightbourne took a field trip this morning to Florida State Prison to view the execution chamber and chemical rooms involved in the lethal injection procedure.
Later this afternoon, lawyers will question witnesses about execution policy, in light of the botched Angel Diaz execution and the recently updated lethal injection manual.
The hearing began at 8 a.m. today in front of Circuit Judge Carven Angel in the Marion County courthouse. For the first two hours, 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 the Capital Collateral Regional Office, argued people on the execution team should testify to talk about what really happens in the chamber and what their background is. The team members' identities are protected and have not bee released by DOC.
"We maintain we would still like these people's testimony," Keffer said. "These people are directly responsible, who are directly making those decisions ... and directly involved in the Angel Diaz execution," she said.
Angel ruled CCR can't call those witnesses.
Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Nunnelley appeared annoyed at times. At one point he called CCR's requests "ridiculous."
"How much is enough and what is too much," Nunnelley argued. The prosecutor thinks Lightbourne's lawyers are going overboard in their evidence requests.
"We don't have to look at ... 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 and they wanted to photograph the area themselves.
Angel sided with defense lawyers, stating attorneys had a right to view the area and photograph it in light of the serious nature of the case.
"Everyone takes photos in an automobile case. I don't know how to not allow that in a death penalty case," the judge said.
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.
Last month, Angel ordered DOC officials to rewrite portions of Florida's execution protocol manual. Angel criticized the vague nature of the manual and asked officials to spell out detailed information about the execution team, its members and their training, among other items.
Those updates will be addressed this week.
A day after the Diaz execution, the CCR office, which represents dozens of death row inmates, filed petitions on behalf of all their clients claiming the penalty was cruel and unusual. The same day, Dec. 14, the court chose the Lightbourne case to argue the issue.
It took 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.
Last month, Gov. Charlie Crist cleared the way for Florida executions to resume. He signed a death warrant for Mark Schwab. Schwab, 38, was sentenced to death in 1992. He kidnapped, raped and killed 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez, of Cocoa, by smothering or choking the boy.