This is the fourth execution that has been delayed due to the Supreme Court’s announcement last month that it will consider lethal injection, but it is the first such postponement outside Oklahoma. The justices said in January that they would hear arguments regarding Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol, a decision that followed three troubled executions last year involving the drug midazolam; they also stayed three upcoming executions in Oklahoma until after they rule in that case, something that Oklahoma’s attorney general had requested.
In Oklahoma, the state revamped its lethal injection procedures after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, which drew worldwide criticism and attention. During his execution last April, Lockett kicked and grimaced before dying 43 minutes after the procedure began.
Oklahoma launched a review of its protocols and, last fall, adopted a new lethal injection method that involved a higher dose of midazolam — 500 milligrams, the same amount used in Florida executions since 2013. (Last month, when Oklahoma carried out its first execution since the botched lethal injection, it occurred the same night that Florida carried out its first execution of the year.)
As a result, the Florida Supreme Court said it “must err on the side of extreme caution” and delay Correll’s execution until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on Oklahoma’s use of midazolam.
“Because the lethal injection protocol under review in the Supreme Court is virtually identical to the Florida three-drug lethal injection protocol, a stay of execution in this case is appropriate,” Jorge Labarga, chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, wrote in the order granting the stay.
In a dissenting opinion, Florida Justice Charles T. Canady wrote that it should be up to the U.S. Supreme Court to stay this particular case.
“There is no reason to assume that the stays were granted in [Oklahoma] because the Supreme Court intended to impose a de facto moratorium on the use of midazolam in lethal injection, rather than because the state of Oklahoma agreed to the stays,” he said.
The Florida justices issued their order the same day that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said he supports delaying all executions until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on lethal injection.