Florida set to execute man for 1978 police killing

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 28, 2011 8:48 AM
Florida set to execute man for 1978 police killing

By Michael Peltier

TALLAHASSEE, Fla (Reuters) - A man convicted of killing a Coral Gables police officer in 1978 is scheduled to die on Wednesday, the first inmate in Florida to be executed since the state changed its lethal injection procedure.

Barring a last-minute reprieve, Manuel Valle, 61, will be administered a lethal series of drugs at 4 p.m. local time at Florida State Prison near Starke.

He will be the first inmate executed in the state since Republican Governor Rick Scott took office in January.

Attorneys for Valle have filed a number of unsuccessful appeals, many of them arguing that the state's mode of execution is unconstitutionally cruel.

Earlier this year, Florida prison officials substituted one of the drugs used in the three-drug protocol after its Dutch manufacturer stopped making the product to protest its use in executions.

In August, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously rejected arguments by Valle's attorneys that the substitution of pentobarbital into the procedure would not render their client unconscious, thus subjecting him to undue pain and suffering when the next two drugs were administered.

In an opinion that cleared the way for future executions using pentobarbital, the court said it found no credible evidence that administering the drug at 10 times the normal sedation dosage would not render Valle unconscious.

By itself, the drug is considered lethal at the dosage to be used by the Department of Corrections. It is followed by other medications that paralyze the lungs and cause a heart attack.

Valle was sentenced to death in 1981 for the murder of Coral Gables Officer Louis Pena, gunned down after stopping Valle's car. Valle was originally scheduled to die August 2, but the execution was postponed to allow for a hearing on his concerns about the new drug.

Valle would be the 70th inmate executed in Florida since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976 and the first since February 2010.

Thirty-six people have been put to death in the U.S. this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jerry Norton)