Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lawyers trying to stop execution of Eustis man

Stephen Hudak

Sentinel Staff Writer

2:42 PM EDT, September 19, 2008

Lawyers for Richard Henyard have turned today to the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping to stop the Eustis man's impending execution.

Henyard, 34, is set to die Tuesday by lethal injection for the 1993 murders of two Lake County girls, Jamilya Lewis, 7, and her sister, Jasmine Lewis, 3, who were carjacked with their mother from a Winn-Dixie parking lot. Their mother was raped in their presence and shot four times but survived.

Mark S. Gruber, who has handled Henyard's appeals, filed a petition today with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asking for a stay of execution.

Gruber had asked the nation's highest court on Thursday to issue a Writ of Certiorari, an order that would require the court to schedule briefs and oral arguments but would not necessarily have halted the execution. In seeking the immediate postponement, Gruber, who works in Tampa for the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, argued that the Florida Supreme Court has violated Henyard's right to due process of law by prohibiting the condemned man's publicly funded lawyers from challenging the state's lethal-injection method of execution.

Four of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices must agree to grant the review. Fewer than 2% of all requests for so-called "certs" are granted by the high court.

A review of Gruber's filing shows he would like to challenge the constitutionality of lethal injection, the confidentiality of the executioners and the Florida Supreme Court's interpretation of law forbidding CCRC lawyers from "engaging in civil litigatition" on behalf of death-row inmates. He pointed out that Florida suspended executions following the botched execution of Angel Diaz, 55, on Dec. 13, 2006. After a governor's commission reviewed and revised the state's procedures, Florida resumed executions on July 1, 2008, with child-killer, Mark Dean Schwab, first to be strapped to the gurney.

The U.S. Supreme Court did not immediately rule on Gruber's filing.

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