Sunday, 25 February 2007

In Florida the preliminary results of the lethal injection committee

In Florida the preliminary results of the lethal injection committee has reached, what can charitably be called, a strained & problematic initial recommendation. From the NYT:

Death row inmates’ consciousness should be monitored throughout executions and those administering lethal injections need additional training, according to a panel’s preliminary recommendations released Saturday.The 11-member panel was assembled to review the state’s death penalty procedures after a botched execution in December took twice as long as normal and required a rare second dose of deadly chemicals. Some witnesses said convicted killer Angel Nieves Diaz appeared to be in pain, and then-Gov. Jeb Bush suspended all executions.

Diaz’s executioner testified that he hadn’t received training in seven years, which most panelists acknowledged wasn’t adequate.

But not all members of the commission agreed with the preliminary recommendations.

Dr. David Varlotta, an anesthesiologist, 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.

But Rodney Doss, director of victim services for the state Attorney General’s Office, countered: ‘’Individuals who served as executioners when Florida had the electric chair as a means of executions didn’t necessarily have to be electricians.'’

From the St. Petersburg Times:

Perhaps most significantly, the panel will recommend that an execution team member check inmates to ensure they are unconscious from the first drug, a powerful sedative. The execution can continue only if the inmate is unconscious.

The team also must assure that the IV in the inmate’s arm has not been compromised.

Experts told the panel over the last few weeks that needles in Diaz’s arms likely tore through the veins.. . .

Other recommendations made by the panel include:

- That the execution team train and rehearse more with all members present. Testimony revealed that the executioner did not rehearse with the rest of the team and hadn’t received any training in seven years.

- That two Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents witness the execution, one from where the executioners are hidden and one from the witness room. The agents also should take notes.

- That the warden be in charge of the execution. Testimony revealed that though the warden said he was in charge, he deferred to medical staff and was not told of steps taken when Diaz’s execution started to go wrong.

- That if one vein breaks, the execution team should start on another vein but return to the beginning of the drug cycle. During the Diaz execution, the team went to a second vein, but skipped the sedative, leaving Diaz potentially vulnerable to the suffocating effects of the second drug and an excruciating burning sensation from the third drug.

- At least one member of the execution team should speak the inmate’s first language. None of the team members spoke Spanish, Diaz’s native language.

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