Inmates seek rehearing on execution method

The men ask the state Supreme Court to review their challenges to lethal injection.

Published November 6, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Two death row inmates asked the Florida Supreme Court on Monday to rehear their challenges to the state's lethal injection procedure.

The justices last week unanimously rejected arguments that the procedure is unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment. That cleared the way for the Nov. 15 execution of Mark Dean Schwab for the 1991 rape and murder of 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez in Brevard County.

Monday's rehearing requests were filed on behalf of Schwab and Ian Deco Lightbourne, who has not yet been scheduled for execution. Lightbourne killed Nancy O'Farrell after breaking into her Marion County home in 1981.

The state responded that Lightbourne's rehearing request should be rejected because it "does nothing more than quarrel with this court's decision."

A response to Schwab's request was not immediately filed.

Schwab and Lightbourne challenged the lethal injection procedure based on problems that caused the execution of Angel Diaz to take 34 minutes - twice as long as normal - in December.

Following Diaz's death, executions were suspended in Florida until Gov. Charlie Crist signed Schwab's death warrant in July after the Corrections Department revised its procedures.

The state justices have not yet ruled on Schwab's motion for a stay of execution pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a challenge to Kentucky's lethal injection procedure. Kentucky, Florida and other states with lethal injection rely on the same three-chemical cocktail.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled in appeals from Schwab and Lightbourne that the revised procedure eliminates the risk of pain from the last chemical injected, potassium chloride, which causes the heart to stop.

The revisions include additional training and a pause after the first chemical, the anesthetic sodium thiopental, is injected to make sure the inmate is unconscious before the remaining drugs are administered.

Lightbourne's rehearing motion argues in part that the pause is insufficient protection because prison officials rather than trained medical personnel check for consciousness. Another argument is the justices erroneously concluded that Lightbourne did not explicitly challenge the three-drug combination.

Schwab's motion contends he did expressly challenge the three-drug regimen, yet the high court turned that argument aside by citing its ruling in Lightbourne's case. He had challenged the use of the third chemical, pancuronium bromide, which causes paralysis and prevents the inmate from showing signs of pain.