A convicted killer whose execution was botched last year was never in any pain and appeared to be straining to see a clock, not grimacing as some witnesses claimed, the warden told a panel reviewing Florida’s lethal injection procedures Monday.
But the condemned man’s lawyer said his client was clearly suffering from the incorrectly injected chemicals, and he mocked the notion that the inmate was looking at a clock.
“What, was he late for an appointment? Come on, that’s ridiculous,” said Angel Nieves Diaz’s attorney, Neal Dupree, who also witnessed the execution and testified before the commission. “I certainly thought he knew something was wrong and he was looking to the closest (Department of Corrections) guy.”
Diaz’s execution Dec. 13 took 34 minutes — twice as long as usual — and required a rare second dose of lethal chemicals because the needles were incorrectly inserted clear through his veins and into the flesh in his arms, a medical examiner reported.
An autopsy found chemical burns in both his arms, and some experts said in interviews that Diaz probably suffered excruciating pain.
“He had the opportunity to be able to scream, cry, yell and that sort of thing, and that did not happen,” Florida State Prison Warden Randall Bryant, who stood about 2 feet from Diaz during the execution, told the 11-member commission.
After the botched execution, then-Gov. Jeb Bush created the commission to examine whether improvements can be made to the way lethal injections are administered. Executions in Florida have been halted until the commission releases its report, which is due to be sent to new Gov. Charlie Crist by March 1.
Dupree told the commission his client was clearly in pain.
“He appeared to be grimacing. It looked like he was in pain to me,” Dupree said. “He almost appeared to be a fish out of water. He was gasping. And that went on for a period of about 10 to 12 minutes. You could see body movement. You could see clutching and unclutching.”
Diaz, 55, was sentenced to death for killing a Miami topless-bar manager 27 years ago. He proclaimed his innocence to the end.
Death penalty opponents have seized on the Diaz execution to bolster their claim that Florida’s lethal injection procedure violates the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.