Gables Cop Killer Executed
TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) – Manuel Valle, the man convicted of the 1978 shooting death of Coral Gables Police officer Louis Pena, has been executed by the State of Florida.
Just hours before, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block the execution. The execution was scheduled to take place at 4:00 p.m., but a last minute reprieve was sought.
The reprieve was not communicated to many members of the media, leading to mass confusion as to whether the Valle was still alive. Initial reports said the execution had been carried out, but those reports were not correct.
A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections told cbsmiami.com that the U.S. Supreme Court asked for the execution to be delayed between 3:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Just before 6:30 p.m, the high court handed down their ruling, giving the green light for the lethal injection. Valle was pronounced dead at 7:14 p.m.
Valle is set to be the first Florida prisoner to be executed using a newly revised mix of lethal drugs, which had been the subject of a last minute appeal this year.
Valle met from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday with his daughter, brother-in-law, two nieces, and three sisters. After that, he spent the next hour with his daughter, one of his nieces, and one of his sisters, according to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald.
Valle requested fried chicken, white rice, a Coca-Cola, and peach cobbler as his final meal. He also met meet with a Catholic chaplain in the hours before the execution.
In an effort to stop the execution, Dr. David Nichol of Birmingham, England filed an emergency petition Monday with the Florida Supreme Court. Nichol argued that the Danish-made drug used in the lethal injection procedure would violate the federal Controlled Substance Act.
The federal law prohibits using sodium pentobarbital, one of three drugs injected during executions, for non-medical purposes. The Food and Drug Administration has declined to enforce the ban against states conducting executions.
Nicholl, though, argued Florida, as a sovereign state, should not sacrifice the rule of law.
Tuesday his bid was rejected.
The execution had been scheduled Aug. 2 but was delayed twice by appeals, the first time by the state Supreme Court and later by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
Both courts rejected Valle’s lawyers’ arguments about the new drug mix.
When Pena’s daughter learned a death warrant had been signed for his killer, she didn’t contain her excitement that justice was finally going to be served.
Jeneane Skeen, who was 13 when her father was killed, posted on Facebook, “To all my family and friends that have been anxiously awaiting with me for 33 years. The Governor has signed a death warrant for the bad guy who killed my father! WOOOOO HOOOOOO!!!!!!!!”
She and other relatives didn’t return messages seeking comment on the execution.
Valle’s death warrant was the first signed by Gov. Rick Scott.
Scott said he never thought about having to sign death warrants when he was running for governor, but said he takes the responsibility seriously and did a lot of research before choosing to sign Valle’s warrant.
“I prayed about it that it was the right thing to do,” Scott said. “It’s pretty daunting because you’re making a choice about someone’s life. I know that the day it happens will not be enjoyable … What you think about is what happened to that family.”
In April 2, 1978, Pena stopped Valle for a traffic violation. Officer Gary Spell testified that when he arrived at the scene, Valle was sitting in Pena’s patrol car. As Pena was checking the license plate of the car Valle had been driving, Valle walked back to the car, reached inside and then walked back and fired a single shot at Pena. He then fired two shots at Spell, who was saved by his bulletproof vest. Valle fled and was arrested two days later.
A month after his arrest, Valle was convicted of auto theft. He also had prior convictions for forgery.
Valle was first sentenced to die in 1981, but the state Supreme Court ordered a new trial that year. He was again convicted and sentenced to die, but the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the death sentence in 1986. Another jury recommended the death sentence in 1988.
Scott signed Valle’s death warrant on June 30 and set the execution date for Aug. 2. The state Supreme Court delayed the execution and asked a lower court to hold a hearing on Valle’s claim that use of a new drug as part of the lethal injection mix would be cruel and unusual punishment. On Aug. 3, a Miami-Dade Circuit judge found that the barbiturate pentobarbital is suitable to render a condemned inmate unconscious before two other fatal drugs are administered. Pentobarbital, marketed under the name Nembutal, is replacing a drug whose sole U.S. supplier has stopped making it.
The execution was rescheduled for Sept. 6, but delayed again by the federal appeals court, which later rejected Valle’s appeal.
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