Lightbourne attorneys will attack execution protocol
DOC officials could be called as witnesses
|OCALA - Attorneys for convicted murderer Ian Lightbourne will continue to attack the Department of Corrections about the state's lethal injection procedure today during the last week of hearings prompted by the botched Angel Diaz execution.|
The hearings, which are scheduled to last through Friday in Ocala, will look at the updated lethal injection manual to determine whether enough changes were made to avoid problems in future executions.
"CCR's job is to attack the changes in the protocol. ... and that those changes aren't enough to protect from another botched execution," said Assistant State Attorney Rock Hooker Monday, referring to the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel's office that represents dozens of death row inmates.
Dozens of DOC officials involved in the lethal injection process were subpoenaed, along with medical professionals. It is not clear which witnesses will be called today, but Hooker said he expected DOC officials to be asked about execution procedure in light of the recently updated protocols.
The litigation is the result of the December 2006 execution of Diaz. It took 34 minutes - twice as long as normal - for Diaz, 55, to die after an unusual second injection of the three chemicals used in the procedure. 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, 5th Circuit Judge Carven Angel, of Ocala, 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 are the items that will be addressed this week. CCR attorneys will argue those changes don't guarantee another execution like Diaz's will occur.
Attorneys for CCR could not be reached for comment.
Hooker said DOC officials are trying to ensure against another botched execution.
"What happened in Diaz is not good," Hooker said. "There were mistakes and it was bad ... And DOC is making sure that it doesn't happen again."
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, on Dec. 14, the court chose the Lightbourne case to argue the issue.
Last month, Gov. Charlie Crist cleared 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. 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.
Angel is expected to rule in September on whether the current execution method is "cruel and unusual." His ruling will be forwarded to the Supreme Court who will study Ocala hearing transcripts and hold a hearing of its own.
Mabel Perez may be reached at email@example.com or 867-4106.