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SCOTUS Stays a Florida Execution: A Review on the Current Lethal Injection Protocol

Florida’s execution protocol has been put under the microscope by the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS), which on February 25, 2015 decided to uphold a stay of execution for a defendant on death row in Florida. This stay of execution comes at the heels of three Oklahoma defendants who petitioned against the current lethal injection protocol and whose stays were granted until SCOTUS could decide on the issues surrounding the procedure.

The Florida Stay of Execution Case

The defendant in Florida’s stay of execution case is the defendant Jerry William Correll, who was placed on death row almost 30 years ago for stabbing his ex-wife, daughter, ex-wife’s mother, and ex-wife’s sister. He was supposed to have been executed the week of February 23rd, but his petition was picked up by SCOTUS as part of a review already in place for the three defendants in Oklahoma.

Why the SCOTUS Review?

The initial review of the protocol was due in large part to a few botched executions involving the drug midazolam, which serves as a sedative. Until 2010, the lethal injection protocol required the use of three types of drugs: an anesthetic, a paralytic drug, and a drug that stopped the heart.

Reasoning Behind the Change in Lethal Injection Protocol

Most of these drugs were manufactured by European companies. Around 2009, however, these companies decided that they were no longer comfortable with the use of their drugs in the execution of American defendants. Once the shipments stopped, pro-execution states switched to pentobarbital, which was used extensively in the last couple years. Again, however, its Danish manufacturer decided to discontinue the sale of the drug to prisons. Midazolam, the drug at issue in the recent botched executions, and at the center of the debate currently in front of SCOTUS, was the next drug to be utilized.

The Eighth Amendment: Cruel and Unusual Punishment

The reasoning behind SCOTUS’s evaluation of the current lethal injection protocol lies at the heart of the Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment. Any drug combination that would cause the defendant to be awake longer on the table and writhing in unnecessary pain would fall under this category; thus, the Court is determining the options that pro-execution states have. If the Court decides to rule against the use of midazolam, many of the pro-execution states have considered returning to the days of the firing squad or gas chamber.

States’ Capital Punishment Options

Many states use various methods to apply the death penalty to their inmates on death row besides lethal injection. In Virginia, electrocution is still a choice for inmates who may choose between the electric chair or lethal injection. Tennessee recently passed a bill making the electric chair its default method. With the onset of the lethal injection issues, Louisiana, which does not currently have an electric chair, considered the integration of one into its system, but ultimately maintained the lethal injection option by letting companies that supply the execution drugs to remain anonymous in all reports. Missouri has mainly been a state that chooses lethal injection, but had a considerable history of using a gas chamber; the gas chamber has not been used since 1968, however, so new facilities would need to be erected. Wyoming and Utah, on the other hand, are interested in the use of a firing squad if lethal injections are found to be inadmissible or impossible.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Capital punishment is still an option in Florida. An experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik can help you understand the criminal justice system and offer you guidance. Contact the Law Offices of Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation.

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