Image: Clarence Hill
Clarence Hill, convicted of a 1982 murder, is scheduled to die via lethal injection Wednesday in Florida.
updated 9/21/2006 12:16:33 AM ET 2006-09-21T04:16:33

A convicted killer who argued that Florida’s use of lethal injection amounted to cruel and unusual punishment was put to death 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.

Hill had argued that the three chemicals used in Florida executions and by many other states — sodium pentothal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride — can cause excruciating pain. The first drug is a painkiller, which death penalty critics have argued can wear off too soon. The second drug paralyzes the inmate and the third causes a fatal heart attack.

In January, Hill was strapped to a gurney and his arms were hooked up to IV tubes before the Supreme Court stopped his execution. In June, in a 9-0 vote, the high court ruled that Hill could mount a challenge to the chemicals under a civil rights motion.

However, a district court in Tallahassee and an appeals court in Atlanta refused to hear those challenges, ruling that Hill should have filed earlier. An appeal was again filed with the Supreme Court, which voted 5-4 on Wednesday 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.

Hill, 48, of Mobile, Ala., was convicted of first-degree murder for the 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.

Suzanne Vickrey, the widow of the slain police officer, witnessed the execution, along with his brother and a cousin.

“Justice was finally served,” Vickrey said. “Twenty-four years is extremely too long for justice to be served.”

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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