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Florida carries out first execution in 18 months with new drug

By Andrew V. Pestano and Danielle Haynes

Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Florida executed its first death row prisoner in 18 months on Thursday with a new drug never before used in the United States, the Department of Corrections said.

Inmate Mark Asay died at 6:22 p.m. after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to halt the lethal injection.

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He was convicted in 1988 of killing two men -- Robert Lee Booker and Robert McDowell -- in downtown Jacksonville in a crime authorities said was racially motivated.

The 53-year-old man was put to death at the penitentiary in Jacksonville.

Prosecutors said Asay called Booker, who was black, a racial epithet before fatally shooting him. They say he killed McDowell, who was dressed as a woman during the shooting, after soliciting him for sex.

Asay admitted to killing McDowell, but not Booker.

The state executed Asay using a new drug protocol, which included etomidate instead of midazolam for sedation. A paralytic was then administered before another drug stopped Asay's heart.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi asked the Florida Supreme Court this month to reject an appeal from Asay regarding the use of the new lethal injection formula. The court rejected defense arguments that the new combination would cause too much pain.

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Asay's execution was the first in Florida since the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2016 struck down a state law that allowed judges to designate death sentences for defendants instead of jurors in a murder case. Florida has since replaced it with a law that requires a unanimous jury vote to impose the death penalty.

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