STARKE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man was executed Thursday nearly three decades after he was convicted of fatally stabbing his ex-wife, young daughter and two in-laws.
Jerry Correll, 59, was pronounced dead at 7:36 p.m. at Florida State Prison after receiving a lethal injection. The execution came after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his latest appeals. Correll is the 22nd inmate to be executed under Gov. Rick Scott — the most executions under a single governor since the death penalty was reinstated in Florida in 1979.
Correll, strapped to the death gurney, said "no sir" when asked if he had any final statement before his execution. He mouthed the words "thank you" to a chaplain sitting in the front row. A group of witnesses sobbed while holding hands.
Correll's upper body convulsed for about 10 seconds when the lethal injection was administered at 7:27 p.m. His body then stopped moving, his eyes fluttered and his mouth opened. He was pronounced dead nine minutes later.
Correll was found guilty and sentenced to death for each of four slayings in Orlando. A jury convicted him of killing his former wife, their 5-year-old daughter, Tuesday; Susan Correll's mother, Mary Lou Hines; and Susan Correll's sister, Marybeth Jones.
The victims' families released a statement after the execution saying they "are at peace in knowing justice has finally been served."
"We say this without vengeance in our hearts but with the belief that there should be proper consequences for the actions of each and every individual. New families have formed. Grandchildren have been born that will, unfortunately, never know their great-grandmother, grandmother, great-aunt and cousin."
Correll had a cheeseburger, French fries and a Coca-Cola as his final meal, said Florida Department of Corrections spokesman McKinley Lewis. Lewis said Correll was "calm and in good spirits" before the execution and that he spoke with his surviving daughter on the telephone.
He was initially scheduled for execution in February, but a court put that on hold after his Florida attorneys, along with attorneys at the U.S. Supreme Court in a separate case out of Oklahoma, argued over whether a sedative used in the execution was effective in knocking inmates out. The sedative, midazolam, is one of three drugs used in Florida executions.
Correll's attorneys argued that midazolam alone would not be strong enough to knock him out given his history of alcohol abuse and subsequent brain damage. In Florida executions, the sedative is used first, followed by drugs that cause paralysis and stop the heart.
Correll's case was sent back to a court in Orlando to determine whether the sedative would work on him. After listening to medical experts, a state judge ruled that Correll's execution could take place. The Florida Supreme Court also rejected arguments that Correll's decades on death row also amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
Correll's lawyers had also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to postpone the execution until it rules in a separate case on whether Florida gives judges too much power in deciding death-penalty sentences. Arguments in that case were heard this month. The court rejected Correll's appeal Thursday night, with Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting.
Correll's daughter, ex-wife, former mother-in-law and former sister-in-law all died from massive bleeding from their stab wounds. Their bodies were found in Hines' Orlando home in July 1985.
Correll initially told a detective that on the night of the slayings, he was outside the house, drinking and smoking marijuana with a woman who drove him to the Orlando suburb, Kissimmee.
But investigators said he had scratches, cuts and bruises on his hands and arms, and they matched his fingerprints and palm prints with others found at the crime scene. Evidence was also presented that he had previously threatened to kill his ex-wife.
He was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 1986.