Friday, October 12, 2007

Florida State Supreme Court Hearing Coverage

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Lakeland Ledger has, "State Looks Higher in Execution Case."

In hearing two state cases that challenged the use of lethal injection as unconstitutionally cruel Thursday, several justices said they had concerns with allowing more state executions while the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a Kentucky case, where two inmates are arguing that the drug "cocktail" used to execute prisoners causes needless pain. The nation's highest court is expected to decide that case sometime next year.

"Why in the world would we move forward and approve an execution when there is some possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will give specific guidance on this very issue?" said Justice Harry Lee Anstead. "I'm having difficulty seeing what the urgency is in going forward with an execution when we're about to get the law from the horse's mouth."

The Miami Herald has, " Florida high court weighs fairness, secrecy of executions."

The justices seemed largely content that the state Department of Corrections changed its procedures for lethal injections after the needles were improperly inserted in Diaz's arms. And though Florida shoots enough anesthetic to knock someone out -- and perhaps kill him -- it still took the grimacing Diaz twice as long to die as any other inmate.

In the wake of that execution, DOC announced changes.

The first part of the procedure is the same: The injector, called a ''sticker'' by Justice Charlie T. Wells, puts the needles in, and the executioner then plunges the first drug, sodium pentothal, into the body of the condemned to knock him out.

Now, however, the executioner must pause as a warden then approaches the condemned, brushes his eyelids for a reaction, jostles him and yells his name -- a period called the ``shake and shout.''

If the condemned is determined to be knocked out, the paralytic drug pancuronium bromide is shot into him, followed by potassium chloride to stop his heart.

''My only concern, and I don't know if it's a constitutional concern . . . is the process of assessing consciousness has not been formalized in any document,'' said Justice Barbara Pariente. ``How do we ensure that that process is going to be competently performed?''

The Orlando Sentinel has, "Court has lethal-injection fears."

"I can't see any urgency in going ahead and having an execution -- which is irreparable, obviously -- should the Supreme Court say we've got it wrong," Justice Harry Lee Anstead said.

Justice Barbara Pariente conceded that "it would look pretty bad for the administration of justice in this state if Schwab was executed and two weeks later" lethal injection was overturned.

The justices heard challenges to Florida's use of lethal injection by attorneys for Schwab and Ian Deco Lightbourne, who is facing the death penalty for an Ocala murder.

The St. Petersburg Times has, "Death penalty may go on hold."

Schwab's lawyer, Mark Gruber, urged the justices to order a trial court hearing where he could present evidence, showing that use of the paralytic drug results in an unconstitutional risk of pain.

The Tallahassee Democrat has, "Death penalty causes discord."

The state's highest court last year chose the appeal of Ian Deco Lightbourne to consider the constitutionality of Florida's revised lethal injection methods in the wake of Diaz's execution. Lightbourne's case has produced a record of more than 7,000 pages as a circuit court held hearings on the legality of Florida's three-drug mix and changes made by the Department of Corrections since Diaz. The trial judge concluded the new procedures are constitutional.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Lightbourne case immediately before it heard Schwab's appeals.

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