Florida's Supreme Court challenged the state today to defend the constitutionality of the electric chair after being shown gruesome photos of the latest electrocution.
Justice Harry Lee Anstead called the images "heinous," "horrible" and "right out of some horror movie."
"Can you hold that picture up to the people of the state of Florida and say this is what we want to do when we are taking a person's life through due process?" Anstead asked Richard Martell, chief of capital appeals for Attorney General Bob Butterworth.
Martell agreed the photographs were graphic but disagreed they were reason to retire the electric chair.
"Any execution is going to involve certain things no matter how it's carried out," Martell said. "It's going to involve fear, it's going to involve . . . discomfort." Just because an execution is unpleasant doesn't make it unconstitutional, he said.
Justices had been shown color photos of Allen Lee "Tiny" Davis, still strapped in the chair minutes after his bloody execution.
In one, the lower half of Davis' face is covered by a leather strap that holds his head to the back of the chair. The upper half of his face is purplish and the features are scrunched together. A line of blood stretches down the mask from his left nostril.
Davis was executed July 8 for the 1982 murders of a pregnant Jacksonville woman and her two daughters. His nose started bleeding just before the current was sent through his body.
Florida's high court ordered a halt to further executions until Sept. 14 and ordered a judge in Orlando to hold a hearing on operation of the chair. Circuit Judge Clarence Johnson ruled three weeks ago that electrocution does not violate the constitutional ban on cruel or unusual punishment.
Martell wants the high court to uphold that ruling.