Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Florida Supreme Court lets defense inspect death chamber


Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

TALLAHASSEE — Lawyers for a Death Row inmate are allowed a behind-the-scenes look at a mock execution, the Florida Supreme Court ordered on Monday.

The court rejected Attorney General Bill McCollum's attempt to thwart a ruling by an Ocala judge granting the walk-through and inspection of the execution chamber by lawyers for convicted killer Ian Daco Lightbourne.

In a brief order, the Supreme Court ruled that Lightbourne's lawyers should be allowed to accompany corrections officials as they perform a practice execution, which occurs at least every other week, according to Department of Corrections records.

Corrections officials testified earlier this month that the mock executions are held weekly when a death warrant has been signed, as is currently the case.

Gov. Charlie Crist ordered a Nov. 15 execution for convicted pedophile and murderer Mark Schwab, the first since predecessor Jeb Bush halted executions in the aftermath of the botched execution of Angel Diaz.

Diaz required a second dose of Florida's lethal drug cocktail and took more than 30 minutes to die.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Nunnelley argued that Ocala Judge Carven Angel overstepped his authority by ordering the executive branch to allow the walk-through and that the exercise would expose the identities of the execution team, who by law are kept secret.

Angel temporarily stopped the unscheduled execution of Lightbourne because, he ruled, the state's execution procedures, revised since Diaz's prolonged death, are still inadequate.

Lightbourne's attorneys are challenging whether Florida's lethal injection is unconstitutional.

The Lightbourne trial resumes next week, raising questions about when and if the granted walkthrough will actually take place, said Neal Dupree, one of Lightbourne's attorneys.

The mock executions take place on Wednesdays, but the convict's lawyers were not invited to participate in today's scheduled exercise, and would be unable to do so next week because of the trial.

The Supreme Court also ruled that Lightbourne's attorneys can only attend a walk-through if one is scheduled by Sept. 10.

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