Monday, 10 September 2007

Judge rules in death penalty case

Judge rules in death penalty case

OCALA -- A Marion County judge has lifted the stay of execution for Ian Lightbourne and refuted allegations that Angel Diaz's execution was botched.

"Medical evidence and observations of lay witnesses do no support the allegation that the execution was 'botched,'" Circuit Judge Angel wrote in his six-page ruling, which was issued today. "There were irregularities which the Department of Corrections has addressed and taken appropriate action to reduce the risk of happening in the future.

"The court rejects the argument that the Diaz execution was 'botched.' Inmate Diaz died within a reasonably short time after the chemicals were injected in a manner that the court finds was painless and humane. It was never intended that the inmate should wake up and go home."

The judge's ruling comes a month shy of a Florida Supreme Court hearing to address whether the death penalty is "cruel and unusual" punishment, and just two months before a the first scheduled execution since the Diaz lethal injection controversy.

In October, the high court will hear arguments from Lightbourne's attorneys and attorneys for Mark Schwab, 38. Schwab was sentenced to death in 1992 for the kidnapping, rape and murder of an 11-year-old Orlando boy. He is scheduled for execution on Nov. 15.

The Ocala hearings are the result of the Diaz execution.

In December, it took Diaz 34 minutes to die after after a second dose of chemicals was injected. Then-Gov. Jeb Bush suspended all Florida executions pending a full review of execution policies.

That same day, the Capital Collateral Regional Office filed petitions on behalf of dozens of death row inmates. The Florida Supreme Court picked the Lightbourne case to litigate the lethal injection issue.

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.

The Diaz execution protocols have been re-written twice: once in May, after in-house reviews and again in July, when Angel ordered DOC to rewrite portions of its execution protocol to include more detailed information about execution team members and their roles in administering the lethal injection.

The department has updated its manual, but CCR argues the changes aren't enough to prevent another Diaz-like incident.

An autopsy of Diaz concluded the needles pushed through the veins and chemicals were being injected in nearby soft tissue, which led to slower drug absorption rates.

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