Supreme Court signs off on new lethal injection drug; execution a goby Dara Kam | August 23rd, 2011
The Florida Supreme Court approved a new lethal injection drug and removed a stay on the execution of cop-killer Manuel Valle.
The court unanimously ruled that the use of the new drug – pentobarbital – as part of the three-drug lethal injection “cocktail” does not inflict undue pain, ignoring the objections of Valle’s lawyers.
A divided Supreme Court last month ordered a Miami judge to hold a hearing on the new drug, an anesthetic Department of Corrections officials decided in June to replace sodium thiopental. Sodium thiopental’s manufacturer stopped making the drug early this year, leaving corrections officials in states like Florida scrambling to find a substitute.
A unanimous court agreed Tuesday with Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jacqueline Hogan’s ruling earlier this month that the drug does not raise a substantial risk of harm. Three federal courts have also signed off on the drug. Florida’s protocol requires a dosage of the drug – also used in animal euthanasia and assisted suicide – 10 times the dosage used for sedation.
Lawyers for Valle, who has spent 33 years on Death Row, argued that using pentobarbital, also known as Nembutal, as an anesthetic may not render him unconscious, thus subjecting him to undue pain induced by the following drugs used in the lethal injection procedure.
The Danish manufacturer of the drug, Lundbeck Inc., twice pleaded with Gov. Rick Scott not to use the drug, saying it “contradicts everything we are in business to do.”
Scott signed a death warrant for Valle – his only since taking office in January – late in May.