Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Execution success may lead to more

Execution success may lead to more



If Florida's succeeds in ending the life of child killer Mark Dean Schwab without incident, that likely will result in a return to multiple executions per year.

At 6 p.m. today, Schwab is expected to be the first state inmate executed in more than 18 months. There are no other executions scheduled, but two inmates have active death warrants.

Proponents and opponents of capital punishment will watch closely to see that the state's revised lethal injection protocol goes off without a hitch. The state's last execution was Dec. 13, 2006, when it took twice the normal time for Angel Diaz to die.

An investigation found that the needle passed through a blood vessel and spread the deadly chemical mixture into the soft tissues of his arm. What followed was a moratorium by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, who created a special commission to review procedures and make recommendations to prevent future lengthy or mishandled executions.

Since Florida made the switch from electrocution to lethal injection in 2000, the state has executed 20 inmates -- none since Diaz.

Assistant State Attorney Wayne Holmes, who helped prosecute Schwab in 1992, said a successful execution will open the door for death sentences to be carried out, including that of another murdering child rapist, Bryan Jennings, whom Holmes mentioned by name.

Jennings snatched a Merritt Island child from her bedroom window before raping her and killing her in 1979.

"The state's Department of Corrections has been very successful putting people to death,"
he said last week. "I'm confident they will be able to put Mr. Schwab to death."

Earlier this year, Department of Corrections Secretary Walter McNeil assured Gov. Charlie Crist that the "lethal injection process is a humane and dignified death."

"The procedure has been reviewed and is compatible with evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society, the concepts of the dignity of man, and advances in science, research, pharmacology and technology," he wrote in an April 21 letter to Crist. "The process is not going to involve unnecessary lingering or the unnecessary or wanton infliction of pain and suffering."

Crist lifted the moratorium, only to have the U.S. Supreme Court issue a de facto halt to executions nationwide, as it considered a constitutional challenge to lethal injection in a Kentucky case.

The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishments.

Yet, it is that threat of cruel and unusual punishment that has had Schwab's attorneys appealing his 16-year-old sentence.

Schwab's last rounds of appeals were denied in circuit court and the Florida Supreme Court..

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