Florida execution finished


Family and friends of Junny Rios-Martinez clap upon learning that Junny's killer Mark Dean Schwab was executed at the Florida State Prison in Raiford Tuesday, July 1, 2008

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, July 1, 2008 at 6:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 1, 2008 at 6:33 p.m.

RAIFORD– Florida’s first execution in more than 18 months happened without a hitch Tuesday, as the state put to death a man who raped and killed an 11-year-old boy.

Mark Dean Schwab, 39, was executed by lethal injection shortly after 6 p.m. at Florida State Prison near Starke. He was sentenced to death in the 1991 kidnapping, rape and murder of Junny Rios-Martinez of Cocoa.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Schwab’s last-ditch effort to stop the execution on Tuesday afternoon. His attorneys argued that the state has failed to fix problems that led to the botched execution of Angel Diaz in December 2006.

Diaz appeared to be wincing in pain and asked, “What’s happening?” during an execution that lasted more than twice as long as usual. An investigation found IV lines had been pushed through his veins, causing chemicals to burn his flesh before killing him.

Schwab’s execution happened in a redesigned death chamber that allows the execution team to have a clearer view of IV lines. In another change to the process, a warden checked to ensure Schwab was unconscious before the lethal drugs were injected.

Rios-Martinez’s mother, Vicki, and other family members witnessed the execution. A MySpace page created by the family includes pictures of the boy in surfing gear and information on the case.

“They say, ‘Forgive and forget.’ But this is one of those things you can’t forget,” his mother is quoted on the page as saying. “If you can forget, then it might be easier to forgive.”

Members of Gainesville Citizens for Alternatives to the Death Penalty held a vigil and protest in a field across from the prison.

Group member Bonnie Flassig said the vigil brings together people opposed to the death penalty in all cases, including the execution of Schwab and Gainesville student murder Danny Rolling in November 2006.

“These cases are really the test cases as to whether people are really opposed to the death penalty,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Schwab had a final meal of two fried eggs, four strips of bacon, two sausage links, hash browns, buttered toast and a quart of chocolate milk. A Baptist minister on staff with the prison system, Perri Davis, stayed outside his cell in the hours before the execution.

Schwab visited with his mother, Mary Killam of New Philadelphia, Ohio, and aunt, Shirley Muhs of Newcomerstown, Ohio, for three hours in the morning. Contact is allowed only during the last hour of the visit.

The execution comes 17 years after the murder of Rios-Martinez. At the time, Schwab had just been released early from prison for raping a 13-year-old boy.

He saw Rios-Martinez’ photo in a newspaper for winning a kite contest and posed as a reporter to get close to his family. He kidnapped the boy from school, then raped, tortured and killed him at a Cocoa Beach motel.

The case prompted the state to pass a law in 1992 prohibiting sex offenders from early release from prison or getting credit for good behavior.

Schwab’s execution was the 65th in the state since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. It was the 21st execution by lethal injection and first since Diaz’s execution.

After the botched execution, then-Gov. Jeb Bush put a moratorium on executions and created a panel to study the process. The panel recommended changes that were incorporated into new procedures adopted by the Department of Corrections.

Gov. Charlie Crist subsequently signed Schwab’s death warrant in July 2007, scheduling the execution for November 2007. But the U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of a legal challenge to lethal injection caused executions to be put on hold across the country.

In April, the court upheld Kentucky’s method of lethal injection in the case. Florida and the 36 other states with lethal injection use a similar three-drug combination to execute inmates.

Inmates are first injected with a sedative, then a paralyzing agent and finally a drug that stops the heart. Schwab’s attorneys had argued problems with the drugs and training of the execution team risked causing severe pain to inmates.

Nathan Crabbe can be reached 338-3176 or nathan.crabbe@gvillesun.com

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