Published on Thursday, December 14, 2006 by the Associated Press
Execution of Florida Inmate Takes 34 Minutes
by Ron Word
STARKE, Florida - Death penalty opponents criticized the execution of a convicted murderer who took more than half an hour to die and needed a rare second dose of lethal chemicals.
Angel Nieves Diaz, 55, convicted of murdering a Miami topless bar manager 27 years ago, appeared to grimace before dying 34 minutes after receiving a double lethal chemical dose Wednesday.
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said she doesn't believe Diaz felt any pain. She said Diaz started snoring and became unconscious after the first three drugs were administered and never regained consciousness.
Plessinger said Diaz had liver disease, which required the second dose of lethal chemicals. But Diaz's cousin Maria Otero said the family had no knowledge that he suffered from liver disease and said the execution was political.
"Who came down to Earth and gave you the right to kill somebody?" Otero said, referring to Gov. Jeb Bush. "Why a stupid second dose?"
Bush said in a statement that the Department of Corrections followed all protocols: "A preexisting medical condition of the inmate was the reason tonight's procedure took longer than recent procedures carried out this year," the statement said.
Diaz was pronounced dead at 6:36 p.m., despite his protests of innocence and requests for clemency made by the governor of his native Puerto Rico.
A spokesman for Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, called Diaz's death a botched execution.
"They had to execute him twice," Mark Elliot said. "If Floridians could witness the pain and the agony of the executed man's family, they would end the death penalty."
In most Florida executions, the prisoner loses consciousness almost immediately and stops moving within three-to-five minutes. Two doctors watching a heart monitor then wait for it to show a flat line. They then inspect the body and pronounce death. The whole process happens within 15 minutes.
Diaz's final appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court challenged the chemicals used in the state's procedure, saying it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. His appeals were rejected about an hour before his execution began.
Attorneys for him and other condemned inmates have been unsuccessfully challenging Florida's three-chemical method, saying it results in extreme pain that an inmate cannot express because one of the drugs is a paralyzing agent.
Puerto Rican officials, including Gov. Acevedo Vila and Senate President Kenneth D. McClintock, wrote Bush asking him to stop Diaz's execution, but he declined. Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, abolished capital punishment in 1929.
Moments before his execution, Diaz again denied killing Joseph Nagy during a robbery at the Velvet Swing Lounge. There were no eyewitnesses to Nagy's Dec. 29, 1979, murder. Most of the club's employees and patrons were locked in a restroom, but Diaz's girlfriend later told police he was involved.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press