Friday, November 2, 2007

High court clears way for state executions

Lethal injection method declared constitutional

By Paul Flemming and John Torres Tallahassee bureau

Originally posted on November 02, 2007

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously ruled that the state's new lethal injection methods, revised after a botched execution in December, are constitutional.

The decision clears the path for the Nov. 15 execution of Mark Schwab, whose appeals for a new trial in a separate case were denied Thursday by the state's highest court.

Even so, Schwab's victim's mother said she expects the execution to be halted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I respect them for following Florida law," said Vickie Rios-Martinez. "I'm not a betting person but I'll bet there is not going to be an execution."

Schwab, 38, has been on death row for 15 years for kidnapping, raping, torturing and murdering 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez of Cocoa in April 1991. He was convicted May, 22, 1992, and sentenced to death.

Lawyers for Schwab in October argued that Florida's lethal injection methods are unconstitutional. They made oral arguments to the court on the same day justices heard another death

row inmate, Ian Deco Lightbourne's, challenge. Lightbourne's case was the test case for Florida's new protocols developed after the error-riddled December execution.

The Florida Supreme Court "basically followed what we asked and what we believed. This now moves to the federal courts," said Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Scwab's attorney, Mark Gruber, was visiting Schwab in prison Thursday and did not return phone messages.

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued three stays of execution since September when it agreed to consider a Kentucky lethal-injection case.

Alison Nathan, a professor at Fordham Law School in New York City and an expert in death penalty litigation, said that case will address the standards lower courts should apply to cruel-and-unusual-punishment challenges to lethal injection.

Do the stays already issued by the U.S. Supreme Court, the latest earlier this week in a Mississippi case, mean there's a de facto moratorium on executions?

"I can't say a hundred percent," Nathan said. "We don't quite have enough evidence from the court. My strong sense is that we will not see any further executions" until the Kentucky case is decided.

Arguments are set for January, with a decision expected by early summer. At least three other state's governors or courts have issued stays to await the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

McCollum said the nation's highest court decides cases individually.

"We really believe we have a good posture in this case. We've done what is necessary to develop the protocols," McCollum said.

Schwab's is the first death warrant signed by Gov. Charlie Crist and the first in the state since a state moratorium on executions was lifted following an inquiry into the December 2006 lethal injection of Angel Diaz. Diaz took nearly three times as long to die as previous executions. Autopsies showed that the three-drug cocktail Florida uses to carry out lethal injections were injected into tissue rather than directly into his veins.

The Florida Supreme Court Thursday said new training and procedures are sufficient.

"This Court's obligation is to ensure that the method used to execute a person in Florida does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment," Thursday's ruling said.

Following Diaz's execution, then-Gov. Jeb Bush established a commission to study the state's methods, as did the state's Department of Corrections. Lower court hearings in Lightbourne's case on those findings and the state's response ended with a finding that the new procedure's constitutional.

The Department of Corrections has instituted new training and personnel standards for executions that include checking — with a shake and a shout — that the first course of drugs have rendered the condemned prisoner unconscious.

Here is a look at Southwest Florida inmates on Florida's Death Row:

Lee County

• Harold Lucas, sentenced 2/9/77

• Robert Power, sentenced 11/8/90

• David Thomas, sentenced 3/15/91

• Anton Krawczuk, sentenced 2/13/92

• Joshua Nelson, sentenced 11/27/96

• Kevin Foster, sentenced 6/17/98

• Joel Diaz, sentenced 1/29/01

• Mark Twilegar, sentenced 8/14/07

Charlotte County

• Jack Sliney, sentenced 2/14/94

• James Ford, sentenced 6/3/99

• Daniel Conahan, sentenced 12/19/99

• Dwight Eaglin, sentenced 3/31/06

• Stephen Smith, sentenced 8/18/06

Collier County

• Thomas Gudinas, sentenced 6/16/95

• Brandy Jennings, sentenced 12/2/96

Glades County

• Michael Lambrix, sentenced 3/22/84


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the USA should become more civilised like the rest of the world and abandon executions.

Anonymous said...

Thomas Gudinas was not civilized when he brutally raped and murdered Michelle McGrath. He should be tortured to death for what he did to that sweet girl. I hope he burns in hell.

joetoronto said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Perhaps the USA should become more civilised like the rest of the world and abandon executions."

"Civilized", you want that POS to be treated with civility?

It's people like you that have completely messed this world up.

raddad said...

This jostling guy is an idiot. If his wife, daughter, or mother was slain and raped like this girl was maybe he'd wake up. Some people are just clueless.

Unknown said...

Who gives a crap if they suffer? I'm sure their victims suffered plenty. If these men are tortured, it would still be too good for them!!!

Unknown said...

Are you kidding me? I guess if you act civilized, you will be treated in aa civilized manner. If these people want to break the law, and murder then they get what they deserve. I bet you would think differently if it was your loved one that was murdered. Unbelievable!!!