[See updates below] As I noted here last week, the next execution in the USA is set for today, at 4 pm, with the state-ordered killing in Raiford, Florida, of Manuel Valle, age 61. Valle was convicted of killing one highway patrol officer and wounding another—thirty-three years ago. So he has spent more than half his life on death row. Invariably the media refer to him simply as “the cop killer.”
It would be the first execution in the state since February 2010. A long-shot appeal has been filed at the US Supreme Court.
The daughter of the murder victim responded to news of the final date for the execution by saying: “Woo Hoo!”
Despite protests over the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia last week, that state has set another execution for October 5.
The execution is drawing added interest as a kind of “test” of a new execution “cocktail” of chemicals. Executions in several states have been slowed by questions about the effectiveness of the chemicals, and protests by activists led to a leading supplier refusing to continue to send lethal chemicals to death rows. Interesting piece here on a noted doctor trying to stop this “test.” (The state Supreme Court just ruled against him.) For more background on lethal injection process go here.
Now the head of the Danish company that supplied one of the chemicals to Florida has written Gov. Rick Scott protesting its use. From the Guardian report: “Doctors and legal experts warn that pentobarbital is untested and could inflict extreme suffering on prisoners as they die. In his letter to Scott, Staffan Schuberg wrote that the use of his company’s drugs in executions in Florida ‘contradicts everything Lundbeck is in business to do—provide therapies that improve people’s lives.’ ”
A Florida weekly lists some facts about Florida executions, including pay for executioner (just $150 for the deed) and limit on money spent on final meal ($40).
UPDATE: With just minutes until the start of the execution, lawyers are scrambling with three different appeals, raising issues about the drug cocktail, the quality of Valle’s original defense, the fact he never did have a final clemency hearing, and the claim that 33 years on death row amounts to "cruel and unusual punishment" or even, by European standards, "torture." A new Guardian story updates it all.
UPDATE 2: As of 5:30 pm, the execution is delayed, pending some response from U.S. Supreme Court. The Miami Herald, and then other Florida papers, reported that the execution had been completed, then retracted their stories. Massive media fail. Here’s the Herald’s retraction.
UPDATE 3: U.S. Supreme Court denies stays, execution — and test of new chemical cocktail — presumably going forward.
UPDATE 4: Valle killed at 7:14 p.m. Unless the Florida media got it wrong again. As far as we know, execution went as planned, with new lethal cocktail performing its killing function as planned.
See my new e-book Dead Reckoning: Executions in America for a lengthy probe of current execution practices, and much more.