Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Politics

Florida death row inmate becomes state's first to demand the electric chair

TALLAHASSEE — For the first time in nearly two decades, a Florida prison inmate is demanding that he be put to death in the antiquated electric chair and not by a lethal injection method that has been repeatedly challenged in court.

Wayne Doty, 42, of Plant City has been on death row since 2011 after he killed a fellow inmate. In a state where condemned inmates routinely wait for decades to be executed, Doty wants to die immediately, partly to attain "spiritual freedom."

"I think his goal is to get put to death as quickly as possible," said Sean Fisher, a private investigator in Gainesville who once worked for Doty. "I think he's nervous about lethal injection being found unconstitutional."

The Florida Department of Corrections did not anticipate that an inmate would demand electrocution.

"We've received the inmate's request and we're reviewing it," prison spokesman McKinley Lewis said Thursday.

He declined to comment further.

Executions in Florida have been on hold for much of the past year because of lawsuits alleging that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, and thus unconstitutional. But the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld its use and the next execution is set for next Thursday in the case of Jerry Correll, who killed four people in Orlando.

Florida is one of eight states, mostly in the South, that have kept the electric chair as a form of capital punishment.

Tennessee reinstated it last year because of challenges to lethal injections.

Florida's electric chair has long been known by the cynical nickname "Ol' Sparky." The three-legged chair has been idle for 16 years after a second botched execution forced the Legislature and then-Gov. Jeb Bush to change the method.

During the 1997 execution of Pedro Medina, who came to Florida from Cuba during the 1980 Mariel boatlift, a mask covering his face caught fire and filled the death chamber with smoke.

At the 1999 execution of triple murderer Allen Lee "Tiny" Davis, blood appeared on his face and shirt as 2,300 volts of electricity coursed through his 350-pound body. The state Supreme Court temporarily halted executions but later ruled in a 4-3 decision that electrocution was not a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

The state switched to a lethal injection of chemicals that sedate an inmate and stop the heart. But in changing the method of execution, Bush and the Legislature also gave inmates the one-time option of selecting electrocution.

Doty is the first inmate to do so.

In a handwritten affidavit, Doty wrote: "I'm invoking my right of free will to choose execution by electrocution due to confliction (sic) surrounding executions through lethal injection."

As a boy, Doty was subject to physical and emotional abuse by his father, according to Dr. Clifford Levin, a psychologist who evaluated the inmate. His father whisked Doty away from his mother when he was a toddler.

By the age of 12, he was a truant and a runaway. The record of the Florida Supreme Court's mandatory review of his death sentence indicates that Doty did not receive counseling that a child psychologist said was necessary.

Citing Doty's first-person testimony at the hearing, the court wrote: "He condemned the juvenile system for failing him and noted that you do not grow out of being ignored, rejected, neglected, abandoned and exposed to the violence of watching your father beat a woman."

He also said he would kill again without remorse.

Doty initially was sentenced to life in prison for the fatal shooting of Harvey Horne II, a watchman at a Plant City manufacturing plant, during a drug robbery in 1996. He tracked down Horne in search of methamphetamine; Doty was 23 at the time.

Sentenced to life, Doty once attempted suicide at Everglades Correctional Institution, but he received no mental health treatment, court records show.

At Florida State Prison in Raiford, Doty was a "runner" who distributed meals to inmates and picked up trash and was considered a good worker. He and another inmate murdered a fellow prisoner in 2011 and Doty confessed to the crime.

Court records state that after inmate Xavier Rodriguez insulted Doty and allegedly stole a package of cigarettes from him, Doty decided to retaliate.

He handcuffed Rodriguez with strips of a bedsheet and strangled him, and doctors said Rodriguez was stabbed in the abdomen 25 times with a crude homemade knife Doty had wrapped in a newspaper.

Rodriguez was scheduled to be released from prison this year.

At his trial, Doty acted as his own lawyer after a court-appointed psychologist concluded he was competent to stand trial and to represent himself.

Also at his trial, Doty called a senior corrections officer as a witness. Lt. Dennis Cauwenberghs said Doty was a good worker but also was perceived as a threat to inmates and guards.

Despite repeated warnings of the incriminating nature of such testimony, known as "future dangerousness," Doty allowed the officer's testimony and the Supreme Court called it a "strategic decision" by Doty.

Doty pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to die after a jury in Bradford County recommended the death penalty in a 10-2 vote.

Gov. Rick Scott has not issued a death warrant, but Doty has waived his right to all future appeals. The Department of Corrections says his execution can be scheduled at any time.

Doty signed his affidavit on Aug. 12, soon after the Florida Supreme Court upheld his death sentence following a mandatory review of his case and within a 30-day window to choose the electric chair.

Doty did not want the appeal to proceed and said he did not want his guilt to be challenged again.

"My decision on method of execution is a self-driven motive allowing the state of Florida to exercise their duly sworn duties to deliver my sentence in an expeditious manner," Doty wrote, "thus bringing peace to the victim's family as well as my spiritual freedom."

Fisher, the private eye, said Doty learned the reality of daily life in a maximum-security prison, where the threat of violence is constant.

"It's 10 times worse than you expected, and you have no hope," he said.

Contact Steve Bousquet at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263. Follow @stevebousquet.

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