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Published: Friday, 12/15/2006

Fla. execution botched because needles missed veins, doctor says


OCALA, Fla. The execution of a convicted killer took 34 minutes twice as long as normal because officials botched the insertion of the needles that delivered the lethal chemicals, a medical examiner said today.

Dr. William Hamilton, who performed the autopsy, said the needles pierced Angel Nieves Diaz s veins and then went into soft tissue in his arms. The lethal chemicals are supposed to go directly into the veins.

Hamilton refused to say whether he thought Diaz died a painful death.

I am going to defer answers about pain and suffering until the autopsy is complete, he said. He said the results were preliminary and toxicology tests and other tests may take several weeks.

As a result of the chemicals going into his arms, around the elbow, he had an 12-inch chemical burn on his right arm and an 11-inch chemical burn on his left arm, Hamilton said.

Florida Corrections Secretary James McDonough said the execution team did not see any swelling of the arms, which would have been an indication that the chemicals were going into tissues and not veins.

Hamilton also said that although there were records that Diaz had hepatitis, his liver appeared normal. State corrections officials said after Wednesday s execution that Diaz had liver disease, which caused him to metabolize the lethal drugs more slowly.

Gov. Jeb Bush s office said he learned of the medical examiner s preliminary findings and has since ordered the creation of a commission to review the way lethal injection is administered in Florida.

David Elliot, spokesman for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said experts his group had contacted suspected that liver disease was not the explanation for the problem.

Florida has certainly deservedly earned a reputation for being a state that conducts botched executions, whether its electrocution or lethal injection, Elliot said. We just think the Florida death penalty system is broken from start to finish.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com

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