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Supreme Court Oks New Lethal Injection Procedure

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Execution gurney in Starke, Fla.

Execution gurney in Starke, Fla.

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) – Florida’s Supreme Court has unanimously agreed to the use of a new drug in executions. The argument was made by an inmate on death row who killed a prison guard while in prison for two other murders.

The execution of Askari Abdullah Muhammad, formerly known as Thomas Knight, was delayed by the court on November 18 and ordered hearings on a claim that the sedative midazolam hydrochloride, — instead of the previously used pentobarbital sodium, doesn’t prevent pain after being administered.

Circuit Judge Phyllis Rosier from Bradford County earlier this month ruled that there’s no credible evidence that condemned inmates would suffer pain if the drug is administered in proper amounts.

After reviewing Rosier’s report, the justices concluded that midazolam hydrochloride effectively renders condemned inmates unconscious before drugs to induce paralysis and cardiac arrest are administered.

“Muhammad failed to establish that the current three-drug lethal injection protocol using midazolam hydrochloride as the first drug in the procedure presents a serious risk of needless suffering or sufficient imminent danger in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment,” the court wrote.

Florida has used midazolam in two executions — William Happ on Oct. 15 and Darius Kimbrough Nov. 12. The state previously used pentobarbital to render prisoners unconscious.

Knight, 62, has been on death row for nearly 40 years. He was convicted of fatally stabbing Corrections Officer Richard Burke with the sharpened end of a spoon in 1980.

Knight was originally condemned for the 1974 murders of Sidney and Lillian Gans of Miami Beach. He received two death sentences for their slayings. The death warrant Gov. Rick Scott signed in October was for Burke’s murder.

Scott didn’t immediately reschedule the execution.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

“The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.”

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