The Florida Supreme Court on Monday temporarily stayed the execution of Manuel Valle, who shot and killed a Coral Gables police officer 33 years ago, pending a hearing over the state’s new use of a drug in its lethal injections.
Gov. Rick Scott signed a death warrant — his first — on June 30 setting Valle’s execution for Aug. 2. On Monday, the state’s high court delayed the execution until Sept. 1 and ordered a hearing on Florida’s recent switch from one anesthetic to another as part of its cocktail of three lethal drugs.
Valle had appealed the death warrant on several grounds, including the use of pentobarbital, a barbiturate intended to knock condemned inmates unconscious so they feel no pain. A second drug paralyzes them and a third stops their heart.
On June 8, the Florida Department of Corrections approved the use of pentobarbital as a substitute for sodium thiopental, the barbiturate the state had previously been using. Earlier this year, the Illinois pharmaceutical company that sold the state sodium thiopental discontinued its production of the drug.
Valle, who would be the first inmate executed under the new drug protocol, raised questions about whether the use of pentobarbital in the amount prescribed by the state could cause him to suffer pain.
The Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that Valle’s claim merits a hearing, and ordered it take place in Miami by Aug. 5, with oral arguments, if necessary, on Aug. 24.