TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – The controversial use of the drug midazolam hydrochloride in Florida executions will be the subject of an evidentiary hearing before the state can proceed with the execution of Robert L. Henry, 55.

The hearing was ordered by the Florida Supreme Court in a ruling issued Thursday.

Midazolam’s usage has been questioned by opponents of the death penalty and some scientists who claim using the drug constitutes a violation of the 8th Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment.

Henry’s specific claim is that due to his alleged hypertension, high cholesterol level, and coronary disease, using midazolam is cruel and unusual punishment.

The defense team for Henry provided an affidavit from Dr. Joel B. Zivot that said giving Henry the prescribed dose of midazolam would “lower the blood pressure precipitously in Mr. Henry in an exaggerated manner as a consequence of his long-standing hypertension.”

Dr. Zivot continued asserting that, “A precipitous fall in blood pressure as a direct result of the large dose of midazolam will with a high probability of certainty, result in an acute coronary event that will be experienced [by Henry] as extremely severe chest pain and shortness of breath.”

Henry’s death warrant was signed by Governor Rick Scott last month. Henry was convicted of the November 1987 murders of Phyllis Harris and Janet Thermidor in Broward County.

Henry worked with the victims at a fabric store. According to the governor’s office, Henry told Harris the store was being robbed and he had been told to blindfold her and lock her in the men’s room. Then Henry attacked Thermidor with the hammer and robbed the store himself.

Later he came back, used flammable liquid to set Thermidor on fire, then attacked Harris with the hammer and set her on fire.

Henry is scheduled to be executed on March 20, according to the death warrant.

The Florida Supreme Court hasn’t delayed the execution at this time. The hearing is scheduled for next week and all briefs are supposed to be filed by next Thursday. A decision will come from the Court after that.

Midazloam was recently used in the execution of Juan Carlos Chavez, who killed 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce. Chavez argued to the U.S. Supreme Court the drug was cruel and unusual punishment, but didn’t use health issues like hypertension as a basis. Chavez lost all of his appeals.


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