TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – The convicted murderer of nine-year-old Jimmy Ryce, Juan Carlos Chavez, has less than 19 hours to live and his lawyers are spending those hours fighting to extend his life through last minute appeals.
The latest Chavez appeal asked for a stay from the Florida Supreme Court by claiming he didn’t have enough time to get together his witnesses and material in his appeal that the three-drug protocol used by the state is cruel and unusual punishment, thus violating the 8th Amendment to the Constitution.
“What we’re seeing here, for lack of a better term, is the ‘dance of death’, as I like to call it,” said criminal defense attorney Phil Reizenstein.
Reizenstein is not connected to the Chavez case, but has extensive experience defending clients against the death penalty.
“The current filings in the Florida Supreme Court are now common and understood by even the general public,” Reizenstein told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana “They’re challenging the method of execution.”
Chavez’s attorneys complained there appeal to receive records addressing the “safety and efficacy of midazolam in the possession of DOC, including those from the manufacturer.”
The attorneys argue the lethal cocktail given to death row inmates amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
The attorneys for Chavez said the Florida Supreme Court then granted a stay of execution for another defendant who is scheduled to be executed after Chavez on similar grounds to those brought up by Chavez’s attorney.
In the second case, Howell vs. State of Florida, the court ordered the Department of Corrections to turn over records that address the safety of midazolam for use in executions and ordered an evidentiary hearing based on an affidavit from a University of Miami Doctor of anesthesiology named David Lubarsky.
A second affidavit from Dr. Lubarsky was attached to the latest Chavez appeal. In the affidavit, Lubarsky argued that “The effects of midazolam hydrochloride are inadequate alone to induce surgery-appropriate unconsciousness and can result in a paradoxical reaction. As a result, the inmate may be conscious during the administration of vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride, which would be both terrifying and excruciatingly painful.”
“The prosecution’s response, which is also very anticipated, what they’re saying is, ‘You’ve waited too long’,” Reizenstein explained.
For Jimmy’s family, it’s been too long, indeed.
More than 18 years have passed since the Redland boy disappeared; fifteen since his killer was found guilty and sentenced to death.
“I just, I want it to be over,” Don Ryce, Jimmy’s father, said in a recent interview. “I want to get it behind us.”
Reizenstein said it could come down to the wire for Chavez.
An 11th hour stay is not out of the question, but he said it’s looking more unlikely as the clock ticks toward execution time.
“At this point, all his attorneys want is for a judge somewhere to say, ‘Stop the execution. I want to hear more.’ But I think his time is running out and I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
An appeal to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta was denied Monday.
As of late Tuesday night, the U.S. Supreme Court had not yet ruled whether it would hear Chavez’s petition to postpone his death.
The execution is schedule for 6 p.m. at the Florida State Prison in Starke, Fla.
Jimmy’s father and brother plan to be in attendance.