Pentobarbital in Florida Executions: What's Next?

Mike Thomas of the Orlando Sentinel wrote an editorial earlier this month that gives a good overview on where the State of Florida is (and was) in its methods of executing inmates on Death Row.  In "The death penalty: A dead end in Florida,"  Thomas discusses the various methods that the state has used to kill those deemed worthy of capital punishment and the conundrum that Governor Rick Scott faces now, what with all this controversy over using pentobarbital as part of the lethal injection three drug cocktail. 

Pentobarbital - The Drug Used by Vets to Put Down Pets

As we've discussed here earlier, the use of pentobarbital in killing living things isn't new;  vets use this drug to euthanize beloved pets.   They've done this for years.  The question is whether or not it should be used on humans - especially. as Thomas points out, when a recent pentobarbital execution had the inmate in obvious distress.  (For details on that distress, read about the anesthesiologist's opinion on suffering in Roy Blankenship's execution.) 

Status of Pentobarbital in Florida Executions Now

Earlier this month, Florida CIrcuit Court Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola found that the usage of the drug pentobarbital in a Florida execution "... does not create an objectively reasonable risk of suffering."   Her determination may lead the way for prosecutors to move forward with another Florida execution (of convicted murderer Manuel Valle, 61).

However, the manufacturer of the drug, a company in Denmark named Lundbeck, is not happy that its product is being used by Americans for executions.  This month, Lundbeck issued a news release that pentobarbital is untested and unsafe for use on human beings in lethal injections, and Lundbeck has stop selling pentobarbital to anyone buying it for resell as a lethal injection component.

Which leaves the Florida executioner in a difficult spot, as Thomas' editorial points out so well.


Public Executions - The Debate on Making Executions Available for Everyone to Watch

Long ago, just like in the movies, executions were public.  Watch a Western, and you'll see the hangings in the public square.  Watch a film about the French Revolution, and there are the masses watching executions on the guillotine. 

Should there be Public Executions in America?

Today, there is talk of making modern-day executions public again.  Of course, this comes with lots of discussion, since many do not agree with the idea of public executions. 

Consider the following discussions:

New York Times, "Capital Punishment: A Public or Private Death?"

Daily Kos, "Televise Executions? Riiiiight."

Law and Conversation, "Making Executions Public"

And consider this, there are public executions today.  Go to You Tube and you can watch executions in North Korea (hanging) and Iran (hanging, beheading).  We're not posting links to them, however.

Florida Death Penalty Statute Found Unconstitutional - Terry Lenamon on What It Means and Full Text of Opinion, Evans v McNeil

Last month, as the Casey Anthony trial was underway, a federal district court judge issued an opinion that has longreaching implications (and caused Anthony's defense attorneys to immediately move, albeit unsuccessfully, for a mistrial):  the federal judge ruled that Florida's death penalty statute was in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Federal Judge Finds Florida Death Penalty Statute Violates U.S. Constitution

The case, Evans v. McNeil, involved a petition for writ of habeas corpus, filed as Case No. 08-14402 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami Division.  The full text of the ruling can be downloaded here

In sum, the court found that the Florida Death Penalty Statute violated Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002), and was therefore unconstitutional. 

Terry Gives His Opinion to the Media Regarding the Ruling that the Florida Statute Is Unconstitutional

When Terry Lenamon was contacted by the media on this development, he explained to the Miami Herald and others that "If the case survives appeal, the Florida Legislature is going to have to modify the law to allow jurors to explain why someone deserves the death penalty."

As previously discussed here on the blog, the role of the judge vs the jury in Florida during the sentencing phase in a Florida death penalty trial is somewhat different than it may be in other states.  The Evans opinion means that jurors would take on a greater responsibility than they currently have under Florida law. 

Lenamon Moves for Stay in Joshua Fulgham Case Based on Need for Appeals Court Review

Later, Terry Lenamon made news when he filed a motion on behalf of his client,  Joshua Fulgham, who is facing the death penalty as the State pursues its case against Mr. Fulgham for the kidnapping and murder of his estranged wife, Heather Strong. 

The motion asked the Florida trial court to stay the case -- put it on hold -- until the federal appeals court grades the papers of the federal judge and either agrees with him, that the Florida death penalty statute is unconstitutional, or that the judge was wrong in his assessment and the law, as written, is legally sound.  

"It would be costly and fruitless for us to proceed to trial based on the fact the 11th Circuit has not ruled," Terence Lenamon argued during a status conference before the judge as reported by the Ocala media. "Our position is that we should stay these proceedings until a decision has been made."


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