Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fla. attorney general says Schwab execution may go forward

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Attorney General Bill McCollum asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to allow Florida to go ahead with the execution of child killer Mark Dean Schwab now that it rejected arguments that lethal injections are unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

Meanwhile, Gov. Charlie Crist asked for a "very short list" of the worst death row inmates so he can sign his next death warrant. There are 388 people on death row.

The Supreme Court earlier in the day upheld Kentucky's use of lethal injection to execute condemned killers, and McCollum said that should clear the way for executions in Florida because the states have nearly identical procedures. The court had stopped the Schwab execution, and McCollum filed paperwork Wednesday afternoon seeking to have the order lifted.

"In the most heinous of cases, the death penalty should be carried out," McCollum said. "Schwab is a very heinous case."

Schwab was supposed to be executed last November for raping and murdering 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez in 1991, but received his stay just four hours before his scheduled execution. His death was held up while the U.S. Supreme Court considered the Kentucky case.

McCollum said he was gratified that the victim's family would see justice and that his belief that Florida's executions "are constitutionally sound has been upheld by the highest legal authority in the nation."

Crist also said he would wait until that decision before moving ahead with other executions. He said he is considering the length of time on death row and the crime committed in choosing who should be executed after Schwab.

"Justice delayed is justice denied and an awful lot of families of the victims have been waiting for justice to be done," Crist said. "But in addition, the heinous nature of the crime itself is important to consider."

Peter Cannon, an attorney representing Schwab, was not immediately available, his office in Tampa said. Calls to the home telephone number and cell number of Vicki Rios-Martinez, the victim's mother, were unanswered.

The Florida Supreme Court had rejected arguments about lethal injections from Schwab this year. His lawyers pointed out that the state Corrections Department execution team botched two of five training sessions using recently adopted procedures. They were designed after Florida bungled an actual execution in 2006.

Schwab's lawyers also contended that during the exercises, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement official who is supposed to monitor the mixing of lethal chemicals was insufficiently trained.

Gov. Charlie Crist signed a death warrant for Schwab in July, lifting a moratorium on executions that his predecessor, Jeb Bush, had ordered after it took twice as long as usual - 34 minutes - for convicted killer Angel Diaz, 55, to die in December 2006.

An investigation found the needles had been pushed through Diaz's veins into his flesh, reducing the drugs' effectiveness.

Corrections officials responded by ordering more training and monitoring of its execution team. The new procedures also include a delay after the first chemical, the anesthetic sodium pentothal, is injected to make sure an inmate is unconscious before the other drugs are administered.

The second chemical causes paralysis and the third stops the heart from beating, which can result in severe pain if a person is conscious.

Critics of the three-drug system say the paralyzing drug is unnecessary and prevents an inmate from showing any sign of pain. Some have advocated using only sodium pentothal because it also is lethal in large doses.

No comments: