Florida execution stayed to allow hearing on drug concerns

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 25, 2011 8:53 PM
Florida execution stayed to allow hearing on drug concerns

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla (Reuters) - The Florida Supreme Court temporarily halted on Monday the execution of a man convicted of killing a police officer and ordered a hearing on his concerns about the state's new death penalty drug.

Manuel Valle was set to be executed on August 2 for the 1978 murder of a Coral Gables police officer. His execution would be the first since Florida, following the lead of multiple states, replaced sodium thiopental with pentobarbital in its lethal injection cocktail.

Valle challenged whether the new sedative, often used to euthanize animals, would effectively induce unconsciousness.

The court determined that Valle "has raised a factual dispute, not conclusively refuted, as to whether the use of pentobarbital in Florida's lethal injection protocol will subject him to a 'substantial risk of serious harm.'"

Challenges to pentobarbital elsewhere have generally failed to prevent executions from being carried out. An execution in Georgia last week was filmed under court order after lawyers for a death row inmate raised concerns about the drug.

Valle's case was stayed until September 1.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)