Florida lawmaker calls for firing squads, electric chair
Florida lawmaker Brad Drake says he is "sick and tired of this sensitivity movement for criminals" and has introduced a bill that would end the state's practice of execution by lethal injection and replace it with the electric chair -- or, if the inmate requests, a firing squad.
Drake, a Republican from the Panhandle community of Eucheeanna, introduced the bill Tuesday, at a time when the controversial case of Troy Davis -- the Georgia inmate who was executed Sept. 21 -- has sparked a fresh national debate over the wisdom of capital punishment.
In a news release, however, Drake highlighted another recent death penalty case: that of Florida inmate Manual Valle, who had been on death row for three decades for the slaying of a Coral Gables police officer before his ultimate execution by lethal injection Sept. 28.
Attorneys for Valle had asked courts to stop the execution, arguing that a new injection cocktail that included the drug phenobarbital amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
"Over the past few weeks, there has been much discussion and debate regarding the effectiveness of certain medicines used as preferred method for execution," Drake said in the statement. "So, I say let's end the debate. We still have Old Sparky. And if that doesn't suit the criminal, then we will provide them a .45 caliber lead cocktail instead."
Florida had mostly performed hangings until 1924, when it switched to the electric chair. The state switched to lethal injection in 2000 after a number of problematic electrocution attempts caused lawmakers to worry that the U.S. Supreme Court would declare Florida's death penalty unconstitutional, the Associated Press reported.
Some of those bungled executions were exceptionally grisly. The May 4, 1990, electrocution of Jesse Tafero caused foot-long jets of smoke and flames to spurt from his head when officials first sent the surge through him, according to court documents. Corrections officials concerned about the flames stopped the process and tried again, resulting in more spurting flames.
It took a third jolt of electricity to kill Tafero. A medical examiner said it took a total of six or seven minutes to kill him.
The AP report notes that Drake's bill will be considered by the Republican-controlled legislature during the session that starts in January. An ACLU representative called it an "embarrassment."
Drake, a marketing executive elected to the state house in 2008, got the idea after chatting with a fed-up voter at a Waffle House in his district, the AP reported.
"I think if you ask a hundred people, not even talking to criminals, how would you like to die, if you were drowned, if you were shot, and if you say you were put to sleep, 90% of the people would say I want to be put to sleep," Drake told the wire service. "Let's put our pants back on the right way."
Photo: A view of the gurney inside the lethal injection chamber at San Quentin State Prison in California. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times