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Florida executions are set to resume

STARKE — Florida's new procedure for lethal injections could be tested Tuesday when executioners strap down a condemned inmate for the first time since a botched execution.

Mark Dean Schwab, 39, is scheduled to die exactly 16 years after he was sentenced in the 1991 kidnapping, rape and murder of Junny Rios-Martinez, an 11-year-old boy from Cocoa.

Florida officials say they have resolved problems that surfaced in the December 2006 execution of Angel Diaz. Needles were pushed through his veins, causing the lethal chemicals to go into his muscles and delaying his death. He died in 34 minutes, twice as long as normal. Some experts said that would cause intense pain.

Gov. Jeb Bush stopped executions after that as Florida and other states waited for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on whether the three-drug method of lethal injection used by Kentucky was constitutional. The case was upheld. Thirty-four other states, including Florida, use a similar method.

Florida's new procedure requires the warden to ensure the inmate is unconscious following the injection of sodium pentothal. Then the executioner will inject pancuronium bromide to paralyze his muscles and potassium chloride to stop his heart. People with medical training are required to be involved in the process.

Schwab and his attorneys aren't sure the problems are fixed. An analysis done for his lawyers showed that nine of 30 mock executions performed by Florida's Department of Corrections between September and May were failures, said one of his state-paid attorneys, Mark Gruber.

The Department of Corrections said its mock exercises have included preparation for potential problems such as a combative inmate, the incapacity of an execution team member, power failure and finding a vein. "Training for the unexpected is not a failed mock execution," said Gretl Plessinger, a Corrections Department spokeswoman.

Schwab's legal options are running out. On Friday, the Florida Supreme Court rejected his latest appeal claiming the new procedure still carries the risk of causing intense pain.

Schwab's attorneys did not return calls after the appeal was rejected Friday, but they are expected to turn next to the federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed eight lethal injections to continue since upholding the Kentucky case.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Nunnelley said Schwab's claims in two previous challenges to lethal injection have also been rejected. "He does not get another bite at the apple," he said.

Rios-Martinez's family members are counting down the days to execution with a timer on a Web site devoted to the boy. They've been through years of appeals, and they decided not to comment on the latest.

"The roller coaster has begun, and we don't want to get on," Vickie Rios-Martinez, Junny's mother, said recently.

>>fast facts

The crime

Mark Dean Schwab raped and killed 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez a month after he was released early from a prison sentence he got for raping a 13-year-old Cocoa boy. The case prompted Florida's Junny Rios-Martinez Act of 1992, which bars sex offenders from early release or credit for good behavior.

>>fast facts

April's ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April that lethal injection, when done properly, does not violate Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Since, there have been eight executions.

Florida executions are set to resume 06/29/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 30, 2008 9:32pm]
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