The new use of a drug in the state’s lethal injections is constitutional, the Florida Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday in the case of a man scheduled to be executed next month for shooting and killing a Coral Gables police officer more than three decades ago.
Manuel Valle, 61, is scheduled to be executed on Sept. 1 for fatally shooting Officer Louis Pena in 1978.
In its unanimous decision, the court ruled that the state can use pentobarbital, a barbiturate, in its three-drug lethal injection. Florida switched its drug protocol in June, after production of the anesthetic sodium thiopental was discontinued. The court lifted an earlier stay of execution.
Pentobarbital is intended to knock out inmates before a second drug paralyzes them and a third stops their heart.
Earlier this month, a Miami-Dade judge rejected an argument by Valle’s lawyers that the use of pentobarbital could constitute cruel and unusual punishment because the use of the drug as an anesthetic has not been extensively studied.
The high court stayed Valle’s execution, originally scheduled for Aug. 2, so Circuit Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola could hold a hearing on the efficacy of the drug.
The case then went directly to the Supreme Court for review. Lawyers for both sides filed written briefs, and last week the high court ruled that oral arguments would not be necessary, signaling that justices had already made up their minds on the case.