Florida will use a drug never tried before in lethal injection to execute William Happ on Tuesday. The drug, midazolam hydrochloride, will be used in place of pentobarbital in a lethal three-drug cocktail.
Happ, 51, was condemned to die for the 1986 abduction, rape, and murder of Angie Crowley, whose body was discovered on a canal bank near Crystal River. He abandoned his appeals and told authorities he is ready to die.
The first drug administered in the set is normally pentobarbital, to cause the inmate to lose consciousness. The second drug causes paralyzation, and the third causes cardiac arrest.
Reuters reports that the manufacturer of pentobarbital banned its use in future executions, forcing officials to scramble for a solution. For Florida, the solution is the use of midazolam, which doctors use to sedate patients. However, midazolam hasn’t been tested as a lethal injection drug.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, stated of Happ’s execution, which is scheduled for Tuesday, “This is somewhat of an experiment on a living human being.” NBC News reports that, if the first drug doesn’t render Happ unconscious, he could experience “extreme pain,” and the paralyzing drug would prevent him from expressing it.
Despite the dangers, Misty Cash, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections, stated that the prison system “did research and determined that this is the most humane and dignified way to do the procedure.” She didn’t identify a research laboratory or other source for the department’s scientific data.
While Happ’s lawyer said his client won’t issue any late motions to stay the execution over the use of an untried drug, another condemned Florida prisoner, Eteria Jackson, already has a hearing set for next month to challenge the use of midazolam. Jackson’s appeal suggests that there is “substantial risk” that the drug won’t work as intended.
If it doesn’t work completely, midazolam’s use would violate the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment.” Do you think Florida is right to use the untried drug for a lethal injection, or should it first provide studies to show the drug will work properly?
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