Judge rejects appeal of Jimmy Ryce’s killer

01/15/2014 4:51 PM

01/15/2014 5:46 PM

A Miami-Dade judge on Wednesday rejected the latest appeal by Juan Carlos Chavez, the South Miami-Dade farmhand slated to be executed Feb. 12 for the 1995 murder of Jimmy Ryce.

The judge’s decision paves the way for a series of appeals expected to be hashed out in higher courts during the weeks before Chavez’s scheduled execution.

Chavez was convicted of the 1995 murder that 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.

Gov. Rick Scott earlier this month signed the death warrant for Chavez, 46, whose conviction and death sentence has been upheld by the Florida Supreme Court.

Chavez confessed to kidnapping the 9-year-old 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. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Marc 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 to in the lethal injection process, may constitute “cruel and unusual punishment,” defense lawyers contend.

But last month, 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 last week.

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.

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