Florida Executions Remain on Trial

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

Convicted drug offender Paul Howell was sentenced to death by lethal injection after being found guilty of murdering a Florida trooper 22 years ago. His original execution was set to take place in 2013, but an unexpected turn of events occurred, causing Howell to narrowly escape fatality. As Howell makes the walk down death row for a second time, the drug that caused his fate to become delayed is still under scrutiny.

On February 1st in 1992, the 26 year old Jefferson County drug dealer now known to Floridians as Paul Howell constructed a homemade pipe bomb and wrapped it up like a present. The bomb was allegedly designed to take out two witnesses who intended to provide accounts regarding Howell’s drug related activities. The gift wrapped pipe bomb never made it into the hands of these alleged witnesses, but instead exploded, claiming the life of Florida state trooper Jimmy Fulford.

Upon conviction, Paul Howell was informed that he was facing certain death. What he was unaware of at the time was that he would join the ranks of the handful of death row inmates forced to face execution twice. Since 1992, there have been many technological advances that have changed prison life completely. Some DNA techniques have been utilized to exonerate death row inmates, freeing them of all charges just hours before their executions. In the case of Paul Howell, it was not exoneration that lent a hand in his reprieve, rather, it was skepticism behind the lethal concoction he was scheduled to be administered.

Capital punishment remains a controversial Florida topic as the sunshine state ranks rather high on the execution scale compared to other states. In April of 2013, Governor Rick Scott was accused of passing a bill that would further increase the already astronomically high execution rate statewide. The bill, entitled “Timely Justice Act” requires executions to take place within a 180 day timeframe of conviction, meaning the capital punishment process should in theory, be sped up rather than slowed down.

In the case of 48 year old Howell, the bill did little to speed up the process and protestors of the state’s lethal injection drug provided a speed bump along the way. It is arguable in the least, to say that having one’s death delayed could be perceived as a cruelty rather than a reprieve, especially when the convict is scheduled to be administered a controversial lethal cocktail that skeptics believe could prolong the misery of his execution.

The questionable cocktail is known as midazolom hydrochloride and scientists believe the dose might not put the convicts completely under at the time of their executions. The makers of the drug claim it was never intended for use in capital punishment and hasn’t been tested as such. Howell, the convicted pipe bomb builder, stands to be the fourth recipient of the devastating injection. The future looks dismal for the 48 year old convict and his treatment could stand to provoke those who already oppose the Florida execution process.