Medical experts testified Wednesday about whether drugs to be used to execute a Jacksonville murderer and white supremacist are humane.
Death row inmate Mark Asay was sentenced to death in 1998 for murdering two men in two different encounters in the same night. Asay confronted Robert Lee Booker and Robert McDowell in neighborhood near Downtown, committing gun crimes the court called cold and calculated because Asay "without the slightest remorse...selected a second person of the same race and social circumstances as [his] first victim" and executed him as well.
According to prosecutors, Asay believed both men he killed were black.
Asay is scheduled to be put to death in less than four weeks but his defense attorneys continue to file motions in attempt to halt the process.
On Wednesday, defense attorneys objected to the Department of Corrections' use of the drug etomidate in the 3-step lethal injection administration.
Through an out-of-state expert, Asay's team presented testimony the drug does not keep a person unconscious long enough, only a few minutes, and can be painful when injected.
The medical expert for the state testified etomidate renders a person unconscious in 10-15 seconds and would keep a person from feeling pain.
According to Dr. Mark Heath, the anesthesiology expert for Asay, etomidate is administered first to make a person unconscious and oblivious to pain. The second drug, rocuronium bromide, is a muscle relaxer to keep an inmates muscles and nerves from jerking in reaction to the fatal drug potassium acetate which is administered last.
Constitutional law professor Rod Sullivan said the judge's decision in Asay's case could impact the approximately 390 inmates on death row in Florida.
"If this judge makes a factual finding that this cocktail of drugs in inhumane, you can expect every single other death row inmate to cite this case to other judges who are going to be looking at the same factual question," Sullivan said. "Each cocktail of three drugs has to be tested to determine whether it produces a pain-free death."
Sullivan said the Supreme Court standard is for the execution method is for it not to be cruel, unusual, or painful. While the litigation could delay Asay's execution, Sullivan says the inmate is out of appeals that could overturn the sentence.
Judge Tatiana Salvador is expected to rule on the motion about the drug by Friday according to deadlines created by the Florida Supreme Court.
Asay's next hearing is scheduled for Thursday morning.
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