TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami.com) – The scheduled execution of a Coral Gables cop killer has been stayed for one month by the Florida Supreme Court.
The state Supreme Court issued the stay of Manuel Valle late Monday afternoon. In addition, the court ordered a hearing on the state’s lethal injection protocol.
Valle’s death warrant was the first such warrant issued by Florida Governor Rick Scott.
It all started on April 2nd of 1978 when 41-year-old Coral Gables Officer Louis Pena, an 11-year veteran, stopped a stolen car because of a traffic violation near Lejeune Road and Miracle Mile. He did not know that the man driving that car, 27-year-old Manuel Valle, was on probation and was wanted for the attempted murder of a Sweetwater officer.
Valle got out of his vehicle while Pena checked his license tag. Valle was allowed to go back to his vehicle because he said he needed a cigarette. Instead, he grabbed a gun and shot Pena in the neck.
He also shot twice at former Officer Gary Spell, who was hit by one bullet but whose life was saved by a bullet-proof vest.
The incident was captured on a 911 tape as a mortally wounded Pena called a dispatcher, asking for help. You can hear Pena’s police dog barking frantically because Pena was wounded. On the tape, you can hear Pena saying, “I’ve been shot. I’ve been shot.”
Valle and his accomplice fled but they were captured two days later. Records show that Valle confessed and later claimed in court that he fired his gun by mistake. Valle, who is now 61, had avoided execution after a series of appeals, rehearings and even reversals. The case even went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Officer Gary Spell previously told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “I think his death was a total waste. And I think he (Pena) probably would have released the individual that night because he would not have known what he was wanted for at that time. I’m glad to see the current Governor is carrying on with this case.”
Spell retired eight months ago after 33 years as a police officer. “That’s how many years I’ve waited for the execution,” said Spell. He said he had no plans to witness it. He is guardedly optimistic that there will be no more delays.
The move by the state Supreme Court comes just weeks after a Florida federal court had ruled that in a separate case the state’s death penalty was unconstitutional. However, the federal decision was for one type of case and not that of Valle’s.
Barring another ruling from the state Supreme Court, Valle’s execution will be delayed until 5:00 p.m., September 1. He was originally scheduled to be put to death on August 2nd.