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Florida's execution method
Execution methods are in the news right now. So what is Florida’s method of execution?
Execution methods are in the news right now. Most significantly, Alabama is planning to perform an execution in January using nitrogen gas—an execution method that has never been used before in the United States—following several botched lethal injection executions earlier this year. (You can read more about the Alabama situation here.) Also, several states sought to bring back the firing squad this year. (You can read more about this here.)
What is Florida’s method of execution?
Florida’s primary method of execution is lethal injection. However, pursuant to Florida Statutes, “[a] person convicted and sentenced to death for a capital crime” has “one opportunity to elect that his or her death sentence be executed by electrocution.”
The time for a prisoner to elect execution by electrocution is 30 days immediately following the Florida Supreme Court affirming the sentence of death on direct appeal:
The election for death by electrocution is waived unless it is personally made by the person in writing and delivered to the warden of the correctional facility within 30 days after the issuance of mandate pursuant to a decision by the Florida Supreme Court affirming the sentence of death or, if mandate issued before the effective date of this act, the election must be made and delivered to the warden within 30 days after the effective date of this act.
If electrocution is not elected within those 30 days, it is waived.
The lethal injection protocol uses three drugs: (1) etomidate, (2) rocuronium bromide, and (3) potassium acetate. Etomidate is a fast-acting anesthetic.1 Rocuronium bromide is a paralytic.2 Potassium acetate stops the heart.3 A Miami Herald article about this three-drug protocol can be read here.
Before the execution, the prisoner is offered “intramuscular injections of hydroxyzine . . . to ease anxiety”, which is administered if desired.
At the time of the execution, the execution team inserts two IV lines into the prisoner’s arms—unless “the team warden” determines that venous access should be obtained through a central line. One IV line is determined the primary line and the other the secondary. The three execution drugs are then administered per the Lethal Injection Protocol.
Etomidate, Nat’l Lib. Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535364/.
Rocuronium, Nat’l Lib. Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539888/.
See Romy Ellen, Florida’s first state execution in three years renews lethal injection debate, Miami Herald (Feb. 23, 2023), https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article272575167.html. Clinically, potassium acetate is used to treat low levels of potassium. Potassium Acetate Injection, Cleveland Clinic, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/21269-potassium-acetate-injection.