Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Lethal injection case may affect Schwab


TALLAHASSEE — As the Florida Supreme Court weighs an appeal by convicted rapist and killer Mark Dean Schwab related to the state’s lethal injection procedure, they are being asked to look at a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, a lawyer for condemned inmates said Tuesday.

The federal high court agreed earlier Tuesday to scrutinize the constitutionality of lethal injections in a Kentucky case that could affect the way inmates are executed around the country.

The Florida Supreme Court will be asked to take that case into consideration as part of an appeal by Schwab, whose execution date is set for Nov. 15, said Bill Jennings, head of a state legal office that represents death row inmates.

Schwab, 38, has spent 15 years on death row following the 1991 kidnapping, rape and murder of 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez of Cocoa.

Sandi Copes, a spokeswoman for Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, said the U.S. Supreme Court case shouldn’t affect Florida executions.

“It’s a case that’s unique to Kentucky,” Copes said.

All 37 states that perform lethal injections use the same three-drug cocktail, but at least 10 states suspended its use after opponents alleged it was ineffective and cruel, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Inmates are injected with an anesthetic, a muscle paralyzer, and a chemical to stop the heart. Death penalty opponents say if the anesthetic wears off before death, the prisoner can suffer excruciating pain without being able to express that due to the paralyzing agent.

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