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July 26, 2011

Florida Supreme Court delays execution to allow hearing on new drug in protocol

As detailed in this AP article,a "sharply divided Florida Supreme Court stayed the execution of convicted killer Manuel Valle on Monday so a judge can hear evidence and rule on whether he may feel pain from the use of a new lethal injection drug."  Here is more:

The justices, in a 4-3 decision, delayed Valle's execution for a month, from Aug. 2 until Sept. 1, absent further order of the high court. Valle, 61, was convicted of fatally shooting 41-year-old Coral Gables police officer Luis Pena during a traffic stop 33 years ago.

Florida and several other states have been forced to seek alternatives to sodium thiopental, part of a three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections, because the sedative's sole U.S. manufacturer has stopped making it.

Florida last month adopted a new procedure that substitutes pentobarbital, which would be injected first to render the convict unconscious before the next two drugs are administered. Oklahoma began using the drug last year and other states have followed suit. It has been employed in 18 executions this year but none so far in Florida. Valle's lawyers contend the new drug's use will subject him to "substantial risk of harm" because it has never been tested on humans for purposes of inducing an anesthetic coma.

"The court has determined that Valle's claim as to the use of pentobarbital as an anesthetic in the amount prescribed by Florida's protocol warrants an evidentiary hearing," the majority justices wrote in an unsigned order....

Chief Justice Charles Canady wrote in dissent that Valle is not entitled to a fact-finding hearing because his claims about pentobarbital are not based on hard evidence. "Based on speculation and conjecture, Valle claims the right to judicial micromanaging of the execution process," Canady wrote. "He has no such right."

The relatively brief opinions from the Florida Supreme Court are available at this link.

July 26, 2011 at 08:22 AM | Permalink


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Once again, no one seriously disputes that pentobarbital, when introduced into the veins of a human being in the amounts provided for in the protocol, will cause rapid unconsciousness. This judicial micromanagement is ridiculous and, in this case, shows a tilt towards a cop-killer. How cruel to the victim's family. Funny how judges never seem to care about that. Pro-criminal judges. Gotta love 'em.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 26, 2011 8:41:15 AM

I really don't understand the majority remanding for a hearing on this. Every other state that has changed the first drug has gained approval from the courts. Of course, several of the Florida Supreme Court justices are squeamish when it comes down to carrying it out. I find it hard to believe they couldn't have denied this claim citing the several court opinions cited in the dissent's final paragraph. I suppose they want a record starting in the court below since
the circuit judge denied a hearing.

Unfortunately, the Governor's office has been reluctant as well in the past several years.

Posted by: DaveP | Jul 26, 2011 2:09:08 PM

I understand it. Many judges, for whatever reason, like to bend over backwards to accommodate capital murderers.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 26, 2011 4:46:49 PM


Valle also had the nerve to raise a "Medellin" claim and his attorneys requested a stay until Congress can possibly implement a new law. Same as Leal a couple of weeks ago.

Posted by: DaveP | Jul 26, 2011 6:25:09 PM

"pro criminal" judges? The Florida Supreme Court?! Federalist, give me a break. Your practice of describing every decision you disagree with as written by "hack" or "pro criminal" judges has gone from the mere tiresome to the absurd. You can do better.

Posted by: anon | Jul 26, 2011 9:51:39 PM

anon, do you seriously dispute that if pentobarbital, in sufficient quantities, is introduced into the bloodstream of a human being, the human being will experience unconsciousness?

Posted by: federalist | Jul 27, 2011 9:19:20 AM

federalist, I got a C+ in chemistry, so I really can't say. Let's test the evidence and see. If you're right (and I will concede that other courts have so found), they'll execute the guy in short order. Even if it takes 6 more months, I don't see the problem. The point is that 4 judges want to see the evidence too.

Posted by: anon | Jul 27, 2011 6:38:34 PM


the annoyance on this delay is that every court has approved pentobarbital without delaying the execution. It is further aggravated by Valle committing this crime 33 years ago. I remember when this occurred. I was just out of high school.

Posted by: DaveP | Jul 27, 2011 7:02:59 PM

Valle requested that the circuit judge who heard the case last week be removed from the evidentiary hearing on the pentobarbital. It was denied by the FSC. The state has filed a request at SCOTUS to dissolve the stay entered by the FSC.

Posted by: DaveP | Jul 27, 2011 8:12:06 PM

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