Friday, 7 September 2007

Judge to decide whether new policies make lethal injection more humane.

Final arguments on executions due today

Judge to decide whether new policies make lethal injection more humane.

OCALA - Attorneys involved in the lethal injection hearings for a Marion County man sentenced to be executed have until 5 p.m. today to give Circuit Judge Carven Angel their last arguments involving Department of Corrections execution protocols.

The deadline for the written, closing arguments marks the end of a months-long look at Florida's execution manual and the newest policies implemented since the December 2006 execution of Angel Diaz.

DOC officials and attorneys with the Attorney General's Office said the new protocols, revised in August, ensure mistake-free executions. Attorneys representing Ocala convicted murderer Ian Lightbourne are arguing new policies cannot ensure an execution like Diaz's will not happen again.

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

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

Angel is scheduled to rule on whether executions are "cruel and unusual" based on the state's execution procedure. His ruling is expected by Sept. 10.

Last month, Angel ordered DOC to rewrite portions of their 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.

The Florida Supreme Court will review Ocala court hearing transcripts and hold its own hearing in October, a month shy of the scheduled Mark Schwab execution.

Schwab, 38, was sentenced to death in 1992 for the kidnapping, rape and murder of an 11-year-old Orlando 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.

Mabel Perez may be reached at or 867-4106.

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