Pain study won't delay execution, justices rule


Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 at 11:47 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE - A 2005 study indicating condemned inmates may suffer pain when being put to death by lethal injection is inconclusive and no reason to delay the scheduled execution of a convicted killer, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
The 6-1 opinion rejected a request for an evidentiary hearing on the study sought by Clarence Edward Hill, who is set to die on Jan. 24. Hill, 47, of Mobile, Ala., fatally shot Pensacola Police Officer Stephen Taylor during a 1982 bank robbery.
Hill's lawyer, D. Todd Doss, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Doss had argued Florida's procedure was unconstitutional because it constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
Assistant Deputy Attorney General Carolyn Snurknowski said death cases usually are further appealed to the federal courts.
Another Death Row inmate, Arthur D. Rutherford, who is scheduled for execution on Jan. 31, has raised the same claim, among others, in an appeal the Supreme Court is set to hear on Jan. 26.
The Hill ruling would render Rutherford's lethal injection argument moot "unless they come up with a new idea," Snurknowski said.
Rutherford, 56, killed Stella Salamon at her Santa Rosa County home in 1985. Rutherford had done some repair work for Salamon, whose body was found submerged in a bathtub where she had been drowned or asphyxiated.
Condemned prisoners are injected with three drugs, one to deaden the pain, another to paralyze their bodies and then potassium chloride to cause a fatal heart attack. The study published in the Lancet medical journal indicates the pain killer, sodium pentothal, can wear off before inmates die.
"As it clearly admits, the study is inconclusive," the high court wrote in an unsigned opinion. "It does not assert that providing an inmate with 'no less than two grams' of sodium pentothal, as is Florida's procedure, is not sufficient to render the inmate unconscious."

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