Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Crist signs his first death warrant

Crist signs his first death warrant

Gov. Charlie Crist has signed his first death warrant, seven months after Florida halted executions and changed protocols to prevent botched lethal injections.

Crist said in a written statement he was confident that killer Mark Dean Schwab's execution on Nov. 15 will be consistent with the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Schwab has been on Death Row since his 1992 conviction for raping and asphyxiating 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez of Cocoa. At the time of the killing, he had just been released early from prison for raping a 13-year-old Merritt Island boy.

''It is impossible for this court to contemplate another crime that would be more heinous, atrocious and cruel than the death of Junny Rios-Martinez,'' Brevard Circuit Judge Edward J. Richardson ruled in July 1992.

''The facts show the defendant is a mentally disordered sex offender. He is antisocial and dangerous to male children,'' the judge wrote.

Schwab's pending execution is sure to reignite the controversy over lethal injections that was sparked last December when an executioner improperly inserted hypodermic needles into the arms of Miami killer Angel Nieves Diaz. He took 34 minutes to die.

Then-Gov. Jeb Bush halted executions and empaneled a committee to oversee the methods of execution. The committee suggested that the state consider reviewing the three-drug cocktail used to kill killers, but Crist ignored the recommendation because prison chief Jim McDonough said the lethal drugs were fine.

Crist, though, approved of the recommendation providing more lethal-injection training for prison staff, increasing the size of the execution chamber, beefing up the staff to oversee the process and installing a closed-circuit television monitor to better keep track of executions.

Staff writer Gary Fineout contributed to this report

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