State Politics

Gov. Rick Scott orders first execution in 9 months

This is a view of the execution chamber from the Florida Department of Corrections website.
This is a view of the execution chamber from the Florida Department of Corrections website. Florida Department of Corrections

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday approved the execution of Jerry Correll in late October, the first inmate in the state to be put to death in nine months and first since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for Florida to continue its lethal injections.

Correll’s execution was originally scheduled for February but was put on hold by the Florida Supreme Court. The justices worried that one of the drugs used by the state in executions might be ruled as unconstitutional “cruel and unusual punishment” by the U.S. Supreme Court.

This summer, however, the federal justices ruled that the drug midazolam — used by Florida and a few other states to paralyze inmates so their deaths are painless — is constitutional.

Critics said the drug might not be working as intended and suggested that people could be unable to move but still be conscious and in a great deal of pain during the execution.

After the higher court’s decision, Correll and his lawyers made another unsuccessful appeal. Correll was convicted and sentenced to death for stabbing four people in Orlando in 1985. All four died, including his ex-wife and 5-year-old daughter.

The Florida Supreme Court decided four days ago to lift the stay on his execution. Correll, 59, has exhausted all of his appeals.

Under Scott’s order, Correll is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Oct. 29.

His will be the first execution in Florida since Johnny Kormondy — convicted of fatally shooting a Pensacola banker in 1993 and raping his wife — was put to death Jan. 15. This marks one of the longest periods between executions since Scott became governor in 2011.

In recent years, the death penalty has been used less frequently nationwide, but Scott has bucked that trend. As governor, he has signed more death warrants than any of his predecessors since the death penalty came back into use in 1977.

Jeb Bush, who ordered 21 executions during his eight years in office, held the record until Scott came along. Correll will be the 22nd person executed under Scott.

“Signing death warrants is one of the governor’s most solemn duties,” Scott spokeswoman Jeri Bustamante said in a statement. “His foremost concerns are the families of the victims and the finality of judgments.”

Critics like Mark Elliott, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, say that the state should not continue executions because a person who has been wrongly put to death cannot be exonerated.

“Florida leads the nation with 25 people exonerated off our Death Row,” Elliott said Tuesday in a statement. “Killing locked-up people is too dangerous, too expensive, and absolutely unnecessary.”

Contact Michael Auslen at mauslen@tampabay.com. Follow @MichaelAuslen.

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