The execution of Juan Carlos Chavez, convicted of murdering 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce, remains on track for Feb. 12 after the Florida Supreme Court on Friday upheld the Miami-Dade trial judge’s decision not to stop it.
Two weeks ago, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Marc Schumacher rejected the latest appeal by Chavez, the South Miami-Dade farmhand facing execution for the 1995 murder of Ryce.
In summary fashion, the state Supreme Court denied Chavez’s petition to stay his execution while he pursues appeals in federal court. The justices also rejected Chavez’s claims that the state’s method of lethal injection violated the Constitution and that his due process rights were denied during his clemency hearing.
“The request for a stay of execution is denied,” the seven justices declared.
With the latest ruling, Chavez and his lawyers appear to have run out of moves. The federal district court in Miami and the appeals court in Atlanta have already ruled that Chavez could not seek relief because he had exceeded the statute of limitations for all the claims in his petition.
Chavez was convicted in 1998 of the boy’s murder, which sparked nationwide efforts to improve searches for missing children and led to the passage of a law that allows the state to indefinitely detain sexual predators.
In early January, Gov. Rick Scott signed the death warrant for Chavez, 46.
Chavez confessed to kidnapping the boy at gunpoint in the Redland, driving him to a trailer on a remote horse farm, raping him and then shooting the boy in the back when he tried to escape. Jimmy’s dismembered remains were found sealed in cement-filled pots behind Chavez's home.
The search for Jimmy, who vanished from a bus stop not far from his home, riveted South Florida for weeks as hundreds of volunteers searched for the boy.
Chavez was convicted in 1998 and jurors unanimously recommended the death penalty. The trial judge, Schumacher, sentenced him to death.
After the execution date was set, Chavez’s lawyers asked Schumacher, who is still on the bench, to stay the execution because of an appeal pending in federal court. The judge declined.
Chavez’s lawyers also sought to stop the execution over concerns about the state’s recent use of the sedative midazolam hydrochloride. The drug, one of three used in the lethal injection process, may constitute “cruel and unusual punishment,” defense lawyers contend.
But in December, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Miami killer Thomas Knight failed to prove that the drug “presents a serious risk of needless suffering.” Knight, after nearly four decades on Death Row, was executed in January.
Judge Schumacher cited the Knight decision, saying Chavez offered no proof that he could disprove the high court’s findings. The Miami-Dade judge also denied Chavez’s final claim that the inmate was denied a proper clemency hearing by the governor.