Friday, November 16, 2007

Schwab case to move into 2008


It's all but official: The United States has a moratorium on executions at least into 2008.

Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court stay of execution for Mark Dean Schwab means 2007 will be the first full year since 1982 during which Florida will not execute a prisoner.

Schwab, a 38-year-old convicted child rapist and murderer, was scheduled to die at 6 p.m. Thursday.

A delay of his lethal injection now, however, may mean a clearer path for states to carry out the death penalty in the future by making the standards for court challenges clearer.

Florida has 385 inmates on death row.

The future can't come soon enough for the Rios-Martinez family of Cocoa, whose 11-year-old son, Junny Jr., was raped, tortured and killed by Schwab in1991.

"I'm not going to lie," Junny Rios-Martinez Sr. said Thursday. "We are disappointed."

Schwab's is the fourth stay the U.S. Supreme Court has granted since September, when it took up the Baze case -- named for Kentucky murderer Ralph Baze, the death-row inmate who brought the lawsuit -- to consider constitutional standards for lethal injection.

Other state courts and governors have followed suit and halted executions on their own.

"This has nothing to do with justice," said Brevard County Assistant State Attorney Wayne Holmes, who prosecuted Schwab.

"This is about technical delays and language regarding what's cruel and unusual."

The Florida Supreme Court earlier this month found the state's lethal injection procedures, which were redrafted since a botched execution last December, were constitutional and would meet any U.S. Supreme Court standard, including those proposed by Baze's attorneys.

It gave the go-ahead for Schwab to be executed.

Alison Nathan, a professor at the Fordham Law School in New York City and an expert on death penalty litigation, said Schwab's stay makes the Supreme Court's position definitive.

"I would venture to say that it's absolutely clear we're not going to see a lethal injection execution going forward until we see a decision in Baze," Nathan said. "I thought we had a clear signal before, but this is as strong a confirmation as you can get."

The stay doesn't necessarily mean Florida justices were wrong.

"All the court is saying is let's slow down," said George Kendall, an attorney in the national law firm Holland & Knight's community service practice and an experienced capital case litigator.

"It's sort of telling the states that are determined to execute, even after there are signals from the high court, to take a break for awhile."

Oral arguments in the Baze case are set for January. Kendall said a ruling may come before the traditional end-of-session release of opinions in June.

"The court knows there are cases backing up behind this," he said.

The Baze case does not challenge the constitutionality of the death penalty, nor of lethal injection.

Instead, it seeks to set a definitive standard for review of methods that three dozen states, including Florida, use for executions -- a three-drug cocktail that anesthetizes, paralyzes and finally stops the heart of condemned prisoners.

That doesn't please death penalty opponents.

"The court is addressing the method, but not the madness," said Mark Elliott, a spokesman for Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Florida's new lethal injection procedures were drawn up after the execution of Angel Diaz in December.

Diaz took almost three times as long to die as those executed earlier in the year. An autopsy showed needles inserted to deliver the deadly drugs missed his veins.

The new protocols include changes to personnel and the training they receive and added steps to make sure the prisoner is unconscious.

The warden, for instance, is directed to shake and shout at the prisoner to make sure the first drug administered has put him under before subsequent drugs stop his breathing and heart.

Assistant State Attorney Holmes said the high court's ultimate ruling should make it easier for courts to decide death penalty cases.

"In the end, it may not change anything in this arena. But we hope that whatever decision they make is clear. Sometimes, their rulings create other issues."

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Anonymous said...

I know it has to be, but it is so sad that the convicted have all the advantages and rights The courts have to be concerned about cruel and unusual treatment to them. What about the torture and cruelty they have done to another that has lasted so much longer. The convicted do not have to worry about paying for representation. The normal family do not have to funds to fight these matters. But it the best system we have and in the long run it is a good one.

sisselnor said...

When a tragedy happens like this, all will be part of the pain and the misery. The cruelty that happened to the little boy was terrible, and there is of course no real excuse for this, and Mark will have to live with this reality all the rest of his life, and he is always in pain.
The pain is all over already and we do not live in this world to add pain to each other. It will help nobody, nor the victims family, even if it immediately may feel so.
I can understand the hate this family may feel towards Mark and they are the only ones entitled to this feeling and nobody else.
For other persons projecting their own personal hatred into this tragedy will only continue the cirle of violence, pain and hatred.
It is time for everyone to heal, not through more pain, but through sadness and slowly creating new signs of life, new hope and to work to stop such tragedies from ever happening again.
I send my love to the victim family and I also send my love to Mark, who was an already victimized child when this tragedy happened.
Instead of being helped when he needed this, he grew into an adulthood he was not mature for with a child still inside. I am very sorry he was not helped in time, so this tragedy could have been avoided.
But maybe there is a sign to us by this child`s death that we need to take better care of all children, also the child Mark.

Love from Sissel