Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Did executed inmate suffer?

Did executed inmate suffer?

An Ocala judge's decision this week conflicts with my experience in witnessing and reporting on a controversial execution.

Judge Carven Angel ruled Monday that the state didn't botch the execution of Angel Diaz in December. Craven ruled that if Diaz experienced pain, "it was not significant, substantial or excruciating." The ruling helps clear the way for the resumption of executions in Florida.

I witnessed the Diaz execution and attended a half-dozen hearings of a state task force investigating problems in the execution. The Sun ran this interactive feature, which includes a transcript of my notes from the execution and information pulled from the hearings.

Here are the facts:

  • After the execution started, I watched Diaz appear to grimace, wince, shudder and move his mouth like he was talking over the course of a 15-minute span. It took another 20 minutes before a doctor declared Diaz was dead. Based on my experience witnessing two other executions and talking to people who have witnessed others, condemned inmates typically stop moving within 5 minutes and are declared dead within 15 minutes.
  • Testimony later revealed that prison guards heard Diaz say "What's happening?" twice during the execution. The Alachua County medical examiner ruled that IVs had punctured completely through Diaz's veins in both his arms. Instead of distributing lethal chemicals into his bloodstream, the chemicals slowly built up in his tissue until reaching the point that they killed him, according to testimony.
  • Testimony showed execution team members defied procedure in several significant ways. They had trouble inserting an IV and failed to report it to a prison warden. They had problems injecting chemicals and failed to stop the execution to figure out what was wrong. They decided to skip one drug and inject two other drugs into both of Diaz's arms at the same time. Medical experts said the decisions could have caused Diaz to feel lethal chemicals burning in his arms before he died.

What do you think about the Angel Diaz execution? Post your comments below. If you have other issues with executions or prisons that you think we should investigate, e-mail us at

-- Nate Crabbe

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