New lethal injection drug combo is constitutional

Aug. 23, 2011 at 10:08 PM   |   Comments

MIAMI, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Florida's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday a barbiturate can be used in the state's lethal injection cocktail and the execution of a convicted killer can proceed.

The drug, pentobarbital, came into question when lawyers representing Manuel Valle, who was scheduled to be executed Aug. 2, argued that the use of the drug could constitute cruel and unusual punishment, The Miami Herald reported.

The lawyer contended that because pentobarbital has not been thoroughly studied as an anesthetic, which is what it will be used for in the lethal combination of three drugs, it could be deemed cruel and unusual punishment.

A Miami-Dade judge rejected the argument, but the Florida Supreme Court postponed the execution so Circuit Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola could hold a hearing on the effectiveness of pentobarbital.

Scola took written briefs from lawyers from both sides, which were reviewed by the Supreme Court.

The high court ruled Tuesday that the use of the drug is constitutional and declined to hear oral arguments.

Valle, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1978 shooting and killing of a Coral Gables police officer, is now scheduled to be executed Sept. 1.

Florida had to come up with a different drug to knock out death row inmates after production of the anesthetic sodium thiopental was discontinued. Pentobarbital will now be used with a second drug that paralyzes the condemned inmate and a third stops the heart, the Herald said.

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