The lead executioner of a convicted killer who took twice the normal time to die never received any medical training, the executioner told a panel reviewing Florida’s lethal injection procedures Friday.
“I have no medical training and no qualifications,” said the executioner, testifying about the Dec. 13 lethal injection of Angel Nieves Diaz, which took 34 minutes and required a rare second dose of lethal chemicals.
After the botched execution, then-Gov. Jeb Bush halted executions in the state and created the panel to examine whether improvements can be made to the way lethal injections are administered. The panel’s report is due to be sent to new Gov. Charlie Crist by March 1.
The executioner testified by phone and answered questions with what sounded like a muffled male voice to guard his identity.
The executioner last received lethal injection training about seven years ago when Florida introduced lethal injections as an alternative to the electric chair.
Also testifying by phone with what sounded like a muffled female voice was a member of the medical team who inserted needles into each of Diaz’s arms. The person said they had over 10 years experience in a clinical setting and completed at least five executions.
Chemicals weren't injected correctly
Doctors concluded the needles had been pushed incorrectly through his veins into soft tissue, delaying the flow of chemicals into his bloodstream. An autopsy found chemical burns in both his arms.
After being unsuccessful in the first attempt to advance the catheter into Diaz’s right arm, the medical professional testified that the catheter was inserted higher up the arm. The left arm required only one attempt, the medical professional said.
Dr. Peter Springer, one of three doctors on the 11-person panel, said the people conducting lethal injections should be medical professionals.
“If lethal injections proceed, I think one of the recommendations the panel may put forward is that medically competent individuals become part of the process,” said Springer, a Volusia County Emergency Medical Services director.
He also noted, however, that ethical issues would complicate such a move. American Medical Association guidelines bar doctors from taking part, directly or indirectly, in executions.
Diaz, 55, was sentenced to death for killing a Miami topless bar manager 27 years ago. He had proclaimed his innocence.