A convicted murderer named William Happ was strapped to a gurney in the death chamber of the Florida State Prison and executed via lethal injection. Happ was given a three-drug cocktail that included midazolam hydrochloride, a fast-acting sedative that had never before been used in capital punishment. Happ apparently remained conscious longer and made more body movements after losing consciousness than other people executed recently by lethal injection under the old formula, making many observers worried that the untested midazolam wore off before the other drugs took effect. This led many observers to fear it subjected Happ to excruciating pain.
Like many death-penalty states, Florida has nearly exhausted its supply of the popular execution drug pentobarbital, and has been frantically searching for an effective substitute. But while other states have halted their lethal injections until they can resolve this problem, Florida decided to forge ahead and deploy this untested drug.
Many defense attorneys see situations in which an accused’s mental state must be questioned for the benefit and proper protection of the accused. Sometimes, personal statements made by the accused stating they possess some higher power or influence that either gives right to their cause or absolves them of their guilt, can be seen as statements of insanity or delusion. Many times, if the accused’s defense attorney can show that the accused suffered from insane delusions and does not understand the death penalty, nor why it had been imposed, then that form of punishment may be prohibited.
The murder rate is high in Jacksonville and when people are arrested for homicide, the state attorney’s office has a decision to make. They have the very powerful decision of whether or not to seek the death penalty. If the state attorney decides to seek the death penalty, a “death qualified” lawyer must represent the accused. These cases are extremely expensive and the families of the accused generally cannot afford the representation. The public defender’s office is appointed to these cases and in the event there is a conflict, there are other criminal defense lawyers in Jacksonville who are appointed.
The state of Florida has set minimum standards criminal defense lawyers in Jacksonville and all of Florida must have in these cases. A capital case is a 1st degree murder case where the state is seeking death. Jacksonville has a list of death qualified criminal attorneys who accept court appointments. The lead lawyer in these cases must be a member of the Florida Bar, has at least 5 years criminal law trial experience, has been lead counsel in at least 9 serious and complex jury trials, sat as co-counsel in at least 2 death penalty cases, has been lead counsel in at least 3 murder cases.
The United States Supreme Court held that capital punishment can only be applied to murderers. The Court cited the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and found that “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” must be considered. The Supreme Court has also eliminated the death penalty for mentally retarded people, people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the murder, and for people who did not have a proper defense at trial.
There were 6 states that allowed the death penalty for rape. They are Florida, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. Treason, aggravated kidnapping, drug trafficking, aircraft hijacking, and espionage are also other crimes eligible for execution. None of these crimes has been prosecuted as a death penalty case.
Remember, when facing criminal prosecution for anything, one should not speak to the police or anyone else. The only person that one should confide anything in is one’s experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorney, who will be fighting the case and making sure that the legal system does not make the accused the victim.
The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for more than a decade and is here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one requires a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.
Additional Sources: Florida’s Barbaric, Disgusting Decision to Execute a Prisoner Using an Untested Drug, Justin Peters, Slate.com