Sunday, 25 February 2007

Executioners need more training, Fla. panel says

Executioners need more training, Fla. panel says


TAMPA, Fla. -- Death row inmates' consciousness must be monitored throughout executions and those administering lethal injections require additional training, a committee reviewing the issue said Saturday.

Not every member of the Gov.'s Commission on Administration of Lethal Injection agreed with the preliminary recommendations.

Dr. David Varlotta, an anesthesiologist who is one of 11 commission members, said executioners require advanced medical training, but an individual with such qualifications would be breaching their own profession's ethical code.

"The state doesn't require teachers and lawyers to perform tasks that are unethical," he said during the more than eight-hour deliberation.

Other panel members disagreed.

"Individuals who served as executioners when Florida had the electric chair as a means of executions didn't necessarily have to be electricians," said Rodney Doss, a commission member who is director of victim services for the state Attorney General's Office.

After the botched execution of Angel Nieves Diaz last year, then-Gov. Jeb Bush halted executions in the state and created the panel to examine whether improvements can be made to the way lethal injections are administered. The panel's report is due to be sent to new Gov. Charlie Crist by March 1.

Diaz, who was proclaimed his innocence but was sentenced to die in the killing of a topless bar manager, took twice the normal time to day and required a rare second dose of deadly chemicals.

Diaz's executioner testified Feb. 9 that he hadn't received training in seven years. Most panel members acknowledged that wasn't adequate.

"It bothers me that (the executioner) would go seven years without any training," said commission member Harry Singletary, former director of the Florida Corrections Department.

Florida Department of Corrections procedures say simulations of the execution process be done quarterly.

The panel also recommended placing all accountability with the warden, who must be identified as the ultimate authority in the execution process, panel members said.

Panel members will meet again Sunday to construct a first draft, which will be submitted to members for a vote next week.

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