Miami judge signs off on Florida’s new lethal injection drugby Dara Kam | August 3rd, 2011
A Miami judge this morning ruled that Florida corrections officials can use a new drug as part of the lethal injection “cocktail,” setting the stage for a Supreme Court show-down later this month.
The Florida Supreme Court temporarily halted the execution of convicted cop killer Manuel Valle, originally slated for Monday, until a hearing was held on the use of the drug pentobarbital. Florida Department of Corrections officials switched to the drug in a new lethal injection protocol released in June after the manufacturer of the old drug, sodium thiopental. The Danish manufacturer of pentobarbital, also known as Nembutal, twice asked Gov. Rick Scott not to use the drug for lethal injections and has stopped selling it to distributors who resell it for that use.
Valle’s lawyers argued that the drug had not been tested and that its use may cause prisoners pain during executions in violation of the cruel or unusual punishment threshold set by a previous U.S. Supreme Court opinion known as “Baze.”
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola agreed with three federal courts that already ruled the drug does not raise a substantial risk of harm.
The “usage of pentobarbital does not create an objectively unreasonable risk of suffering,” Scola wrote in her order.
Briefs from Attorney General Pam Bondi, who went to the U.S. Supreme Court to try to get the execution back on, and Valle’s lawyers are due to the Florida Supreme Court by Aug. 19, and the court has slated oral arguments for Aug. 24 if necessary.
Gov. Rick Scott signed a death warrant for Valle – his only since taking office in January – late in May. The Supreme Court rescheduled Valle’s execution for Sept. 2.