"Execution drugs need closer look," is the Tampa Bay Times editorial from late last month.
Florida has embarked on a macabre form of experimentation by introducing a new drug into lethal injections that might result in death row prisoners feeling agonizing pain during an execution. To get at the truth, the Florida Supreme Court on Monday suspended an execution and has ordered further hearings. The new drug is a slow-acting, quickly dissipating sedative that could result in the subject regaining consciousness during the procedure. It is further evidence of misguided attempts at justice.
The Florida Supreme Court has a duty to ensure that executions are conducted in accordance with the state and federal Constitutions that bar killing prisoners in a cruel manner. The court's delay of Muhammad's scheduled Dec. 3 execution is more than justified. The court directed a circuit court in Bradford County to hold hearings and rule by Tuesday, after which time the high court will review the matter.
But this mess gives Florida leaders another reason to consider following states like Illinois and Maryland that have repealed the death penalty. States are increasingly recognizing that the death penalty is arbitrary, expensive for taxpayers and sometimes mistakenly imposed. At least 143 people who were innocent of their crimes have spent time on death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Florida has 24 people on that list, the most of any state in the nation.
Now the possibility the state will torture someone to death is added to this error-prone system. It is a policy not worthy of Floridians or American jurisprudence.
"Fla. judge upholds use of new execution drug," is the AP report of November 26, via the St. Augustine Record.
A Florida judge on Monday signed off on the use of a new drug the state is using in its executions.
Circuit Judge Phyllis Rosier from Bradford County ruled that the sedative midazolam hydrochloride does prevent pain when it is administered to condemned inmates during the lethal injection process.
Rosier made the ruling after holding a two-day evidentiary hearing that had been ordered by the Florida Supreme Court. In a contentious 5-2 decision, the high court delayed an execution to consider questions about the new drug.
Askari Abdullah Muhammad, formerly known as Thomas Knight, was scheduled to be executed Dec. 3 for the killing of a prison guard while on death row.
The Florida Current posted, "Judge approves new execution drug," by Bill Cotterell.
The state successfully defended its new execution drug in court on Monday.
Circuit Judge Phyllis Rosier, who held an evidentiary hearing ordered by the Florida Supreme Court last week, ruled that midazolam chloride is not just sufficient to render condemned killers incapable of feeling pain -- it could kill them itself, in high enough doses. The drug is used as the first of three in execution, an anesthetic followed by a paralytic chemical and then a heart-stopping drug.
The state previously used pentobarbital as the first drug in the execution “protocol,” but the manufacturer of that drug cut off supplies to states using it in executions. Other states also plan to switch to midazolam but have not yet used it.
“No credible evidence has been presented to this court that shows midazolam as an anesthetic in the amount prescribed by Florida’s protocol is ‘sure or very likely to cause serious illness and needless suffering,’ or give rise to ‘sufficiently imminent dangers,’” Rosier wrote, citing a standard set by U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
The ruling said Dr. Mark Heath, a New York anesthesiologist testifying for Muhammad last week, had said midazolam would produce a deep state of unconsciousness at 10 or 15 milligrams. The execution method uses 500 milligrams.
Cottrell also file the Reuters report, "Florida Judge Upholds Use Of New Execution Drugs," via Huffington Post.
Based on testimony of doctors on both sides, Rosier ruled that the drug "is a FDA-approved drug routinely used as a pre-anesthetic sedative" which, in very high doses, could even be used as the only drug in an execution.
"There is no dispute that the dosage amount used in Florida's protocol is such that it would induce not only unconsciousness when properly administered, but also respiratory arrest and ultimately death," she wrote.
"Lethal Injection Cocktail Debate Headed Back to Florida Supremes," is by WBFS-TV and the News Service of Florida.
The debate about the state’s current cocktail for lethal injections is headed back to the Florida Supreme Court, after a lower court judge ruled the drugs now being used would not violate a convicted murderer’s rights.
The case now goes back to the Supreme Court, which is set to hear oral arguments Dec. 18 if the justices choose to do so.
Earlier coverage of Florida lethal injection issues begins at the link.