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Supreme Court okays new lethal injection procedure

TALLAHASSEE — The execution of a man who killed a prison guard while on death row for two other murders can go forward after the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Florida's new lethal injection procedure is effective.

Askari Abdullah Muhammad, formerly known as Thomas Knight, was scheduled for execution Dec. 3. The court on Nov. 18 delayed it and ordered hearings on a claim that the sedative midazolam hydrochloride doesn't prevent pain after being administered.

Circuit Judge Phyllis Rosier from Bradford County earlier this month ruled that there's no credible evidence that condemned inmates would suffer pain if the drug is administered in proper amounts.

After reviewing Rosier's report, the justices concluded that midazolam hydrochloride effectively renders condemned inmates unconscious before drugs to induce paralysis and cardiac arrest are administered.

"Muhammad failed to establish that the current three-drug lethal injection protocol using midazolam hydrochloride as the first drug in the procedure presents a serious risk of needless suffering or sufficient imminent danger in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment," the court wrote.

Florida has used midazolam in two executions — William Happ on Oct. 15 and Darius Kimbrough Nov. 12. The state previously used pentobarbital to render prisoners unconscious.

Knight, 62, has been on death row for nearly 40 years. He was convicted of fatally stabbing Corrections Officer Richard Burke with the sharpened end of a spoon in 1980.

Knight was originally condemned for the 1974 murders of Sidney and Lillian Gans of Miami Beach. He received two death sentences for their slayings. The death warrant Gov. Rick Scott signed in October was for Burke's murder.

Scott didn't immediately reschedule the execution.

Supreme Court okays new lethal injection procedure 12/19/13 [Last modified: Thursday, December 19, 2013 10:13pm]
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