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Florida Executes Cop Killer

Florida carried out its second execution in two days Tuesday, when it put Leo Jones, 47, to death for the 1981 shooting of a police officer in Jacksonville.

Jones, who had challenged the constitutionality of Florida's use of a 75-year-old electric chair, died there at 7:11 a.m. EST Tuesday.

Jones' attorneys objected after the fiery death of another inmate in March 1997. The problem had led to a nearly yearlong halt in executions in Florida, which ended Monday. Jones' execution was the second of four scheduled over nine days.

After flames up to a foot long burst from behind the mask covering the face of Pedro Medina last year, electrocutions were halted in Florida for failed appeals and a debate on whether use of "Old Sparky" was cruel and unusual punishment.

In 1990, a sponge in the headpiece caught fire during the death of Jesse Tafero. That also led to a temporary halt in executions.

"In the hearts of all us, it's long overdue," said Thomas Pialorsi of Jones' execution. He was president of the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police when Officer Thomas Szafranski was shot as he sat in his patrol car.

Jones confessed to the shooting, saying he killed the officer because of police beatings, but later denied the killing, saying the confession was coerced.

In his appeals, he noted the statements of a dozen people who said another man had confessed to the killing. Jones' appeal for a stay to the Florida Supreme Court and a separate appeal to a federal judge were rejected Monday.

Serial killer Gerald Stano died Monday for the murder of a 17-year-old girl from Port Orange in 1973. He had confessed to 41 killings.

Judy Buenoano, 54, the "Black Widow," is scheduled to be executed next Monday for the murder of her husband. Twenty-four hours later, the state plans to execute Daniel Remeta, 40, for the 1985 fatal shooting of Mehrle Reeder, a convenience store clerk in Ocala.

Despite the one-year moratorium on executions, Florida ranks third in the nation in the number of people executed since 1976, when the Supreme Court allowed states to resume capital punishment. According to Department of Justice statistics, Jones is the 41st person to be executed in Florida since 1976.

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