Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Executions to Resume in Florida

MIAMI, July 18 — Gov. Charlie Crist signed his first death warrant on Wednesday, seven months after a botched lethal injection prompted his predecessor to suspend capital executions in Florida.

The warrant, ordering the death of a convicted child killer, Mark D. Schwab, 38, is scheduled to be carried out on Nov. 15 by lethal injection at the state prison in Starke, about 30 miles northeast of Gainesville.

Mr. Schwab was sentenced to death in 1992 after he was convicted in the kidnapping, rape and first-degree murder of Junny Rios-Martínez, an 11-year-old boy. Mr. Schwab, who had already served three years in prison on sexual assault charges, singled out the boy after seeing his picture in a newspaper.

In December, another convicted murderer, Angel N. Díaz, was put to death by lethal injection but he required a second dose of chemicals and took 34 minutes to die. Witnesses said that after the first dose, Mr. Díaz appeared to move, squint and mouth words.

An autopsy said intravenous needles placed in Mr. Díaz’s arms plunged through his veins into tissue, preventing the drugs from quickly entering his bloodstream. Mr. Díaz’s execution prompted the governor at the time, Jeb Bush, to suspend all executions and create a commission to review how Florida carried out the death penalty.

The commission, made up of doctors, lawyers, scientists and law enforcement officials, found that Mr. Díaz’s executioners had been poorly trained and had not followed protocols. It recommended that the state ensure that condemned inmates are completely sedated before injecting them with potentially painful lethal chemicals and suggested that the state review the three-drug cocktail used in executions.

The panel also asked for improvements in executioners’ training and practices, which the state has done. Florida switched to lethal injection in 2000 after flames shot from an inmate’s head during his execution by electric chair.

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