A convicted killer who had argued that Florida's use of lethal injections amounted to cruel and unusual punishment was put to death by lethal injection Wednesday night after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly denied him another stay.
Clarence Hill, 48, was executed for the 1982 murder of a Pensacola police officer in a savings and loan robbery.
He did not reply when asked if he had a last statement, staring straight at the ceiling. His head was strapped down, unlike some other executions.
After the injection, he blinked his eyes a couple times, his chest heaved and his mouth drooped. The physicians, wearing blue hoods and dark goggles, checked his vital signs at 6:11 p.m., and pronounced him dead a minute later.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court, which halted Hill's execution in January after he was strapped to a gurney awaiting his lethal injections, voted 5-4 to deny another stay. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens voted to grant the stay, the court said in a two-sentence order.
The high court ruled unanimously in June that Hill could argue the three chemicals used in lethal injections in Florida and many other states — sodium pentothal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride — can cause excruciating pain. The first drug is a painkiller, the second paralyzes the inmate and the third causes a fatal heart attack, but death penalty critics have argued the painkiller could wear off too soon.
Neither the federal court in Tallahassee nor the Atlanta appeals court agreed to consider Hill's challenges to the chemicals. Both said Hill should have made those arguments years ago, although Doss contends they could not have been made until Gov. Jeb Bush signed the death warrant in November.
Hill, 48, of Mobile, Ala., was convicted of first-degree murder for the Oct. 19, 1982, killing of Officer Stephen Taylor, 26, and the wounding of Taylor's partner, Larry Bailly, when they responded to a silent alarm at Freedom Federal Savings Bank.
Hill's wife, Serena Mangano, of Modino, Italy, visited him before the execution. The couple married in June during a no-contact wedding at Florida State Prison in Starke.
The Supreme Court also halted the execution of another Florida inmate who sought to challenge the lethal injection procedure. A new execution date has not been set for Arthur Rutherford, who like Hill had been scheduled to die in January.
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