Saturday, August 18, 2018
Politics

For the first time in Florida, a white person is set to be executed for killing a black person(w/video)

GAINESVILLE — For the first time in state history, Florida is expecting to execute a white man today for killing a black person — and it plans to do so with the help of a drug that has never been used before in any U.S. execution.

Barring a stay, Mark Asay, 53, is scheduled to die by lethal injection after 6 p.m. Asay was convicted by a jury of two racially motivated, premeditated murders in Jacksonville in 1987.

The planned execution — Florida's first since the U.S. Supreme Court halted the practice in the state more than 18 months ago — is expected to be carried out using etomidate, an anesthetic that has been approved by the Florida Supreme Court. Two other drugs also will be used.

Asay, who is white, fatally shot Robert Lee Booker, 34, a black man, after making multiple racist comments, prosecutors said. Asay's second victim was Robert McDowell, 26, who was of mixed race, white and Hispanic. Prosecutors say Asay had hired McDowell, who was dressed as a woman, for sex and shot him six times after discovering his gender.

While Asay would be the state's first white man to be executed in Florida for killing a black man, at least 20 black men have been executed for killing white victims since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to data from the Death Penalty Information Center. A total of 92 Florida inmates have been executed in that time.

Opponents of capital punishment said much more needs to be done to make Florida's criminal justice system more equitable.

"This does nothing to change the 170-year-long history of Florida not executing whites for killing blacks," said Mark Elliott, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Etomidate is the first of three drugs administered in Florida's new execution cocktail. It is replacing midazolam, which has been harder to acquire after many drug companies began refusing to provide it for executions. The etomidate is followed by rocuronium bromide, a paralytic, and finally, potassium acetate, which stops the heart. It is also Florida's first time using potassium acetate, which was used in a 2015 execution in Oklahoma by mistake but has not been used elsewhere, a death penalty expert said.

While the state's high court has approved the use of etomidate, some experts have criticized the drug as being unproven.

"It's never been used in an execution before," said Jen Moreno, a lethal injection expert who works as a staff attorney at the University of California at Berkeley Law School's death penalty clinic. "There are outstanding questions about whether it's going to do what it needs to do during an execution. The state hasn't provided any information about why it has selected this drug."

State corrections officials defended the choice, saying it has been reviewed. The Corrections Department refused to answer questions from the Associated Press about how it chose etomidate.

"The Florida Department of Corrections follows the law and carries out the sentence of the court," Michelle Glady, the Florida Department of Corrections' spokeswoman, said in a statement. "This is the department's most solemn duty and the foremost objective with the lethal injection procedure is a humane and dignified process."

Doctors hired by Asay's attorneys raised questions about etomidate in court declarations, saying there are cases where it had caused pain along with involuntary writhing in patients.

But in its opinion allowing the drug to be used, the state's high court said earlier this month that four expert witnesses demonstrated that Asay "is at small risk of mild to moderate pain."

Asay would be the first Florida inmate executed since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling found the state's method of sentencing people to death to be unconstitutional. The court ruled that the old system was illegal because it gave judges, not juries, the power to decide.

Since then, Florida's Legislature passed a law requiring a unanimous jury for death penalty recommendations.

In Asay's case, jurors recommended death for both murder counts by 9-3 votes. Even though the new law requires unanimity, Florida's high court ruled that the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling did not apply to older cases.

Asay will be the 24th inmate executed since Gov. Rick Scott has taken office, the most under any governor in Florida history.

Booker's son, Vittorio Robinson, who was 15 when his father was killed, told the Florida Times-Union newspaper in Jacksonville that his father's death helped him realize that racism was still alive.

"I just couldn't believe it," he said, describing when he learned of his father's death. "And then it dawned on me, there are actually still people out there that thought that way."

Comments
Romano: A fresh start for Florida to protect abused children

Romano: A fresh start for Florida to protect abused children

The worst job in Florida is available, once again.Mike Carroll has announced his pending resignation as secretary of the Department of Children and Families, giving someone else the privilege to be an underfunded, second-guessed punching bag. For no ...
Published: 08/18/18
Pinellas commission candidate faced stalking, abuse claims

Pinellas commission candidate faced stalking, abuse claims

ST. PETERSBURG — A political newcomer seeking a Pinellas County Commission seat has faced accusations of physical abuse and stalking from her former fiance, who twice sought court-ordered protection from her.Both allegations came after Democrat Amy K...
Published: 08/17/18

Two Seminole council members face challengers

SEMINOLE — Six candidates have filed to run for two open seats on the City Council.Incumbents Chris Burke, first elected in 2012, and Trish Springer, elected in 2015, face challenges from former council member Dan Hester, who served from 2005 to 2010...
Published: 08/16/18
In Republican race for Pinellas County Commission seat, Rep. Kathleen Peters outpacing field

In Republican race for Pinellas County Commission seat, Rep. Kathleen Peters outpacing field

As the Aug. 28 primary election approaches, three Republicans are battling to represent a Pinellas County Commission district that hasn’t witnessed a competitive contest for more than 15 years.State Reps. Larry Ahern of Seminole and Kathleen Peters o...
Published: 08/16/18
Romano: Con artist or Florida politician? You decide

Romano: Con artist or Florida politician? You decide

Decorum matters, and so the attorney’s language was appropriately measured.In seeking to have a constitutional amendment thrown off the ballot, a motion filed in Leon County used words such as "misleading’’ and "ambiguity’’ and "wordsmithing.’’That’s...
Published: 08/16/18
Veteran Hernando politicians take oversized contributions, run afoul of campaign finance laws

Veteran Hernando politicians take oversized contributions, run afoul of campaign finance laws

BROOKSVILLE — With primary Election Day at the doorstep, two Republican candidates vying for seats on the Hernando County Commission found themselves in uncomfortable spots over potential filings with the Florida Commission on Ethics.And a third Repu...
Published: 08/15/18
Q&A: A Watergate trickster talks dirty politics, then and now

Q&A: A Watergate trickster talks dirty politics, then and now

CLEARWATERNearly half a century ago, Martin Kelly made the mistake of his life.He was a senior at the University of Miami when he decided to take part in what would become one of the most infamous political scandals in U.S. history: Watergate. He was...
Published: 08/15/18

Pasco Political Notebook for Aug. 17

Republican Club hosts candidate forum at meetingThe West Pasco Republican Club will host an "Election Extravaganza" candidate forum at its meeting Aug. 21 at Heritage Springs Country Club, 11345 Robert Trent Jones Parkway, Trinity. A social time will...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/15/18
Early voting in Pasco: Here’s what to remember when you head to the polls

Early voting in Pasco: Here’s what to remember when you head to the polls

Early voting Pasco County begins Saturday and runs through Aug. 25, with 11 locations across the county for voters.Polls are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 20-24, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug...
Published: 08/13/18
Largo election cancelled as incumbents stay with no opposition

Largo election cancelled as incumbents stay with no opposition

LARGO — There will be no suspense in the city when elections arrive Nov. 6. In fact, there will be no election at all, because all four city commissioners whose seats were up were re-elected by default when no one came forward by the end of the candi...
Published: 08/13/18