Florida executes Cuban convict
A 61-year-old Cuban man convicted of the 1978 murder of a US police officer was executed in Florida by lethal injection Wednesday, after the Supreme Court rejected his petitions for a stay, prison authorities said.
The execution of Manuel Valle -- which Spain had tried to stop at the last minute -- came a week after the controversial execution of Troy Davis, who went to his death for the murder of a policeman in Georgia.
"Manuel Valle was executed tonight. The time of death was 7:14 pm," a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections, Jo Ellyn Rackleff, said in a statement.
Relatives of the victim, 41-year-old police officer Louis Pena, said they felt a "great relief that after 33 years, justice has finally been served for Louis and his family."
"Manuel Valle was tried, convicted and sentenced more than once by juries of his peers and there was absolutely no doubt of his guilt because there was an eyewitness, a policeman," the statement said.
Spain intervened at the last minute, asking the United States to stop the execution on humanitarian grounds and saying Valle was likely eligible for Spanish nationality. The US and Cuba do not have full diplomatic ties.
"We took up this case because under our constitution we are a country that opposes the death penalty," Spain's Consul General in Miami, Cristina Barrios, told AFP.
Lawyers for Valle also lodged a series of last-minute petitions with the US Supreme Court, which were rejected. His execution took place three hours after the scheduled time.
Valle is the fourth inmate executed in the United States in a week, and the first put to death in Florida using sodium pentobarbital following domestic shortages of the previously used anesthetic sodium thiopental.
Danish drugmaker Lundbeck, which produces pentobarbital under the brand name Nembutal for treatment of epilepsy, said in July it would restrict distribution of the drug after learning that it was being administered by several US states as part of a three-drug cocktail used to execute death row inmates.
On Monday a neurologist submitted a petition to the Florida Supreme Court requesting a halt to Valle's execution, claiming that use of pentobarbital in lethal injections is illegal because the controlled substances act prohibits its use for non-medical purposes. The court dismissed the suit on Tuesday.
Valle's lawyer Suzanne Myers Keffer earlier said that sodium pentobarbital would cause "substantial harm" to Valle. It was one of the issues she raised in last-minute filings to the Supreme Court for a stay of execution.
Other points made to the court include that Valle was placed on death row in an "arbitrary manner," never received "full clemency proceedings," and that his decades awaiting execution amount to "cruel and unusual punishment," she told AFP.
London-based rights group Reprieve said Valle has not benefited from consular advice because Florida did not inform Cuba of his arrest.
The Cuban Interests Section in Washington declined to comment on the case when contacted by AFP.
Valle's family has said they will reclaim the body after an autopsy, which is mandatory under Florida law for any inmate who dies in custody, she said.
More than two dozen foreign nationals have been executed in the United States since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Davis's case galvanized global efforts to end capital punishment, drawing support from high-profile figures including former US president Jimmy Carter, South Africa's bishop Desmond Tutu and Pope Benedict XVI.
There was a flood of international condemnation after Davis was put to death in the state of Georgia by lethal injection, despite doubts about his guilt for the 1989 slaying of a white police officer.
© 2011 AFP