Last month, the Florida Supreme Court (5-2) ordered that the December 3, 2013, execution of Thomas Knight (aka Askari Abdullah Muhammad) – which had been approved by Florida Governor Rick Scott – be stayed after hearing arguments from defense counsel regarding the proposed use of midazolam hydrochoride as part of the drug cocktail that would be used by the Florida executor in the lethal injection.


The stay was ordered and a hearing was ordered, too.

The Florida Supreme Court ordered that a judge in Bradford County hold an evidentiary hearing on the drug midazolam hydrochloride and whether or not it is safe and effective for use in killing human beings as part of a state execution of capital punishment.

Note that Nathan Knight’s execution would not be the first Florida execution to use this drug; two Florida executions (William Happ; Darius Kimbrough) have already used midazolam hydrochloride in lethal injection executions since October 15, 2013, because the state has run out of pentobarbital – see our earlier posts.

According to the Florida Supreme Court Order, there can be no execution of Thomas Knight until after December 27, 2013 – and after this hearing on the drug has taken place.

Bradford County Circuit Judge Phyllis Rosier held the hearing as ordered by the Florida Supreme Court.

The hearing took two days, and one expert for each side (prosecution and defense) took the stand to provide opinion evidence regarding whether or not midazolam hydrochloride effectively prevents pain in humans sufficiently for its use in a lethal injection execution. (One of Knight’s arguments: Happ moved in a manner during his lethal injection execution that suggested midazolam hydrochloride might not work to prevent pain.)

Judge Rosier ruled that midazolam hydrochloride in the three drug cocktail used for lethal injection executions by the State of Florida does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment: there was “no credible evidence” to show any suffering would result from the use of this drug if used in sufficient dosage.

What about Happ’s movement? The judge ruled that no evidence was presented to support the argument that the movement was caused by pain or demonstrated suffering on the part of Happ.

What happens now?

The Florida Supreme Court will consider Judge Rosier’s ruling — and will hear arguments in the case next week (on December 18, 2013).

In the Terry Lenamon Online Library now: 

Florida Supreme Court Stay in Death Row Inmate Thomas Knight’s Challenge to Use of Midazolam Hydrochloride…