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5 Things To Know About Florida Executions

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Execution Chamber on Florida's Death Row. (Source: Florida Department of Corrections)

Execution Chamber on Florida’s Death Row. (Source: Florida Department of Corrections)

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STARKE (AP) — John Ruthell Henry, a man convicted of killing his wife and his 5-year-old stepson, is scheduled to be Florida’s 43rd execution by lethal injection in 14 years Wednesday. It would be the 13th execution in Florida since April 2013 and the 18th since Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011.

THE HISTORY: The first person executed by lethal injection in Florida was Terry Sims, who was convicted of the 1977 murder of a volunteer deputy sheriff during a drugstore robbery near Orlando. Sims died proclaiming his innocence on Feb. 23, 2000.

THE METHOD: Florida uses a three-drug mixture of midazolam hydrochloride, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The drugs are administered intravenously and are intended to induce unconsciousness, paralysis and cardiac arrest. Midazolam, a sedative used before surgeries, has been used in the three-drug mixture since 2013. Previously, sodium thiopental was used, but its U.S. manufacturer stopped making it and Europe banned its manufacturers from exporting it for executions.

A BOTCHED PROCEDURE: In 2006, Florida botched the execution of convicted murderer Angel Diaz, who took more than 30 minutes to die instead of the usual 10. According to death penalty opponents and a report in The New Republic — which printed autopsy photos — the executioner “pushed catheters through both veins and into subcutaneous soft tissue.” The chemicals went into Diaz’ soft tissue instead of his bloodstream, creating burns, the autopsy discovered. Shortly after, then-Gov. Jeb Bush put a moratorium on executions, which was lifted in 2007 by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. At the time, the Department of Corrections said it had updated its lethal injection procedures after Diaz’s execution.

Florida Electric Chair

(Source: AP)

ELECTROCUTIONS: Before Sims’ execution, Florida electrocuted its condemned inmates. Forty-four inmates were executed in the electric chair between 1976, when executions were resumed following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, and 1999. A total of 196 inmates were put to death in Florida between 1924 and 1964, all electrocutions.

ABANDONING THE ELECTRIC CHAIR: Problematic executions ledFlorida to abandon the electric chair. The last person Florida executed by electrocution was Allen Lee “Tiny” Davis, in July 1999. The 54-year-old was put to death for the 1982 slayings of a pregnant Jacksonville woman and her two young daughters. It was the first use of a new electric chair designed to handle Davis’ 350-pound frame. He suffered a nose bleed that caused blood to appear on Davis’ chest and spread to about the size of a dinner plate, even seeping through the buckle holes on the leather strap. On May 4, 1990, Jesse Tafero was executed for the slayings of three people, including a Florida Highway Patrol trooper. During the electrocution, witnesses said 6-inch flames shot out of Tafero’s head. State officials said the flames were caused by the executioners failing to wet one of the sponges placed on his head to conduct the current, and the sponge caught fire.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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