Thursday, 15 February 2007

Florida Commission Continues Work

Florida Commission Continues Work

The Tampa Tribune has an editorial, "Executioner Needs Precise Training in Carrying Out Lethal Injections."

The latest bombshell in the botched execution of Angel Nieves Diaz is the public discovery that Florida's executioner had limited training in carrying out the death penalty, further evidence that the Department of Corrections under Gov. Jeb Bush was a complete mess.

A commission examining the state's missteps in executing Diaz, who took 34 minutes and multiple injections to die, last week heard from the executioner that he had received no medical training in his seven years on the job. The commission also was told the death chamber is so poorly configured that the executioner, who commands the process from behind a screen, can't fully see the condemned inmate.

Given what we now know about how Florida administers the death penalty, it's a good thing that Bush suspended executions until the commission completes its report and makes its recommendations.

National Public Radio has a conversation with Slate legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick, here.

The Gainesville Sun has, "Experts testify on botched execution."

Monday's hearing included testimony by Alachua County Medical Examiner Dr. William Hamilton, who conducted Diaz's autopsy. He said the autopsy revealed that Diaz had a heart condition that would have caused lethal drugs to kill him faster.

But Hamilton said IV lines went completely through veins in both of Diaz's arms. The lethal drugs were consequently distributed into Diaz's tissues, he said, causing the inmate to more slowly fall unconscious and die.

"None of the materials injected went to the right place," he said.

After the execution, Hamilton said, pockets of chemicals about a foot long — essentially large blisters — formed on both Diaz's arms. He said one of the chemicals used in the process is known for its caustic effect.

The St. Petersburg Times has, "Doctor: Execution was flawed at start."

A doctor told a panel reviewing Florida's lethal injection procedures that executioners "did the worst thing they could do" during the botched killing of condemned inmate Angel Diaz last year.

The testimony came from Mark Heath, a Columbia University anesthesiologist who has testified on the behalf of death row inmates in about 20 states.


A medical member of the execution team then decided to release the third drug, which causes a severe burning pain, into Diaz's other arm. This move baffled Heath because the painful third drug likely was injected into Diaz's body without the benefit of the sedative.

The vein in the second arm also broke, perhaps preventing Diaz from suffering severe burning pain from the third drug, Heath said.

"Thank God the other IV wasn't working either," Heath said. "The people doing this could not have thought through the contingencies."

Heath said witness accounts that Diaz was breathing "like a fish out of water" lead him to believe the drug causing a painful feeling of paralysis took effect before the painkiller.

"That is a classic sign - that fish-out-of-water look - that the person is partially paralyzed and struggling for breath," Heath said.

He added, "Mr Diaz, in my opinion, was not properly anesthetized."

The Orlando Sentinel carries an AP report, "Executed man probably in pain."

There is no way to tell whether a convicted killer was properly sedated before two extremely painful drugs entered his system during a botched execution because blood samples were taken too late, experts told a commission reviewing Florida's execution procedures Monday.

But one of the experts said there were strong indications Angel Nieves Diaz felt pain.

A hat tip to Howard Bashman.

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