Manuel Valle Execution Draws Florida Supreme Court Petition From Irish Neurologist

The execution of convicted South Florida cop killer Manuel Valle has been petitioned in the Florida Supreme Court yet again over issues with the new lethal injection drug, this time with the objection of a Northern Irish neurologist.

The petition was filed by Dr. David Nicholl, just two days before Valle's scheduled execution, which is slated for 4 p.m. tomorrow.

The Florida Supreme Court has already ruled against Valle in a protest of the use of the new sedative drug pentobarbital, and a pair of letters from the president of Lundbeck -- the company that manufactures the drug -- to Gov. Rick Scott have gone ignored.

Now, Nicholl wants to halt Valle's execution, again claiming the Florida Department of Corrections' use of the drug is unlawful.

"The Controlled Substances Act prohibits the dispensing of pentobarbital except for legitimate medical purposes, and the purpose of execution is not medical," the petition states. "It is incontrovertibly penological."

The first challenge to the use of the drug delayed Valle's original execution date of August 2, after the Florida Supreme Court remanded the case to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola for a hearing on the constitutionality of pentobarbital.

Scola ruled that Valle's defense "failed to present any credible evidence of any risk of needless suffering," and the Florida Supreme Court unanimously agreed with the lower court's ruling, declaring the new drug constitutional for inmate executions in the state.

At the circuit court hearing, the defense's main witness -- an anesthesiologist -- gave anecdotal evidence about the pain suffered by inmates from other states who have been subject to lethal injections involving pentobarbital, but Scola ruled that without some sort of data, "there is no way to know" exactly how it affects inmates.

Nicholl's petition is a bit different.

Nicholl asserts that Floridians have an interest in preventing the Department of Corrections from undermining the law -- again referring to the Controlled Substances Act -- saying the state must "either operate under the law, or demean its authority in the eyes of Florida's citizens."

A neurologist from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and an honorary senior lecturer at City Hospital in Birmingham, England, Nicholl says he has a "direct interest" in Lundbeck, the Danish drugmaker of pentobarbital.

Aside from using Lundbeck drugs in clinical practice and having a financial interest in the company, Nicholl says he also has an ethical interest in the matter.

Petitioner has been directly involved in the movement to prevent the misuse of pentobarbital in executions. Petitioner led a campaign backed by a committee of over 100 neurologists from all over the world against the use of Lundbeck drugs in executions. Petitioner engaged with leading medical journal, the Lancet, exposing the misuse of the drug and calling for distribution changes to be put in place.

Nicholl also argues against the negative consequences for Lundbeck due to the use of the drug "in the barbaric and reprehensible practice of U.S. executions," thus claiming that the company as well as Florida citizens are the losers if Valle gets the juice.

A response has not yet been filed, and Valle's execution is still scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

Valle, 61, was convicted of killing a Coral Gables cop in 1978. He's been locked up at the Florida State Prison in Raiford since May 16, 1978, and on death row for just over 30 years now since being sentenced to death on August 4, 1981.

You can read Nicholl's petition by clicking here.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley