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Electric Chair: Torture Tool?

The Florida Supreme Court delayed the execution of Thomas Provenzano, a convicted killer who was to be electrocuted Friday for a 1984 courthouse shooting spree in Orlando that killed a bailiff and paralyzed two court officers.

The stay of execution came in the wake of the electrocution of Allen Lee Davis, which shocked observers as blood gushed from the mask covering DavisÂ' face, poured over his collar and chest and then oozed through the buckle holes on the chest strap holding him in Florida's brand-new electric chair.

The execution horrified death penalty critics, who moved immediately to protect other condemned inmates from what they called the barbarity of Florida's electric chair.

Â"His death was neither instantaneous nor painless,Â" read a petition to the state Supreme Court that won a delay of the next execution. Â"It was certainly the kind of `savage and inhuman' spectacle forbidden by the Eighth Amendment.Â"

The 50-year-old Provenzano won a postponement after arguing that Davis' execution demonstrated the electric chair still does not work properly.

The governor's office said it was simply a nosebleed. The bleeding was believed to be a first for the 44 Florida executions since the state resumed them in 1979.

Â"Nothing went wrong,Â" said Cory Tilley, a spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush. Â"The chair functioned as it was designed to function and we're comfortable that that worked.Â"

The new chair replaced Â"Old Sparky,Â" which had been used to execute more than 200 people since 1923. Corrections officials said the old chair was falling apart; it had also raised concern after a 1997 execution in which flames shot from the head of a condemned man. The problem was later blamed on an error in the way sponges were applied to his head.

The high court delayed Provenzano's execution until Sept. 14, so state officials can review Davis' death.

An autopsy report stated that Davis—a 344-pound killer nicknamed Â"TinyÂ"—had Â"several predisposing risk factorsÂ" for nosebleeds, including hypertension and arthritis that required him to take aspirin and Motrin, both blood-thinners.

Attorney Marty McClain said a chart of the voltage showed that the current fell short of the 2,300 volts necessary to put someone to death humanely.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida called for Bush to halt all executions until the state can ensure that they can be conducted properly.

Â"Florida's record of executions, and the Legislature's obsession with electrocution as the method of execution, has been barbaric,Â" said Howard Simon, the state ACLU's executive director.

Amnesty International USA said Davis' bloody execution Â"demonstrates that the state's attempt to `improve' the process of executions cannot remove the cruelty inherent in state killing.Â"