Fla. to keep same drugs for execution

May 10, 2007|By South Florida Sun-Sentinel

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida will keep using the same lethal cocktail for executions but put new protections in place to ensure a "humane and dignified" death for the condemned, the state's prisons chief said yesterday.

Corrections Secretary James McDonough outlined changes designed to prevent a repeat of the botched December execution of Angel Diaz, who some witnesses said appeared to be awake, in pain and gasping for air. It took two doses of lethal drugs to kill Diaz, who died in about 34 minutes - about twice the normal time.

McDonough's report to Gov. Charlie Crist is in response to recommendations made by a commission charged with reviewing the Diaz execution. That commission, appointed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, called for Florida's executioners to get better training and for a re-evaluation of the three chemicals now in use.

The drugs sedate the inmate, paralyze the lungs to halt breathing and then stop the heart. Most of the 37 states that use lethal injection employ the same combination, developed in Oklahoma three decades ago.

After consulting with other states and the federal government, "the general consensus is ... it's the appropriate mixture of drugs," McDonough said.

He said the execution team and wardens who will oversee executions have been trained in how to be certain that an inmate has lost consciousness from the first drug. Only then will the second and third chemicals be injected.

The recommendations were rejected by an opponent of the death penalty, who said the system remains flawed.

"It's absurd that the warden will be determining the depth of consciousness that can only be determined by a professional anesthesiologist," said Mark Elliot of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

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