All executions suspended in Florida after error

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Jeb Bush.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush has halted signing all execution warrants in the state after a medical examiner revealed an error had occurred in a lethal injection recently.

Doctor William Hamilton, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, has released a statement saying the execution of prisoner Angel Nieves Díaz, from Puerto Rico, took 34 minutes and required a second dose of lethal chemicals. This was caused by the error in that the needles were inserted straight through his veins and into the flesh in his arms, causing the chemicals to leak out.

The 34 minute time frame is twice as long as usual, however Dr. Hamilton refuses to comment whether Diaz died painfully. He stated "I am going to defer answers about pain and suffering until the autopsy is complete," noting that the results were preliminary.

However, Doctor J. Kent Garman, an emeritus professor of anesthesia at the Stanford School of Medicine, did comment on the possible pain endured, saying "[missing a vein when administering would cause] both psychological and physical discomfort, probably pretty severe."

Dr. Jonathan Groner, an Ohio surgeon who has studied and written extensively about lethal injection, also commented, saying Díaz's execution "amounts to death by torture."

Jeb Bush has established a commission to report on the state's lethal injection process after the circumstances of Diaz's case, and he suspended the signing of any more death warrants until the commission panel completes its final report, scheduled in March 2007.

Only a matter of hours later, a federal judge ruled that the lethal injection system in California may violate the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment."

The chemicals used in Florida, California and 35 other US states are all slightly different, but follow a general formation, as follows:-

  • The first is a barbiturate to force the person into a state of unconsciousness
  • The second is a paralyzing agent that makes the person unable to speak, move or breathe
  • The third is potassium chloride, which stops the heart of the person.