Florida set to execute death row inmate using new drug

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Mark Asay, convicted of killing two men, is set to die by lethal injection.

Florida is planning to execute a death row inmate Thursday for the first time in more than 18 months using a lethal injection drug that has never been used in the United States.

The US Supreme Court on Thursday denied a stay of execution request for Mark Asay, 53, who is scheduled to die by injection after 6 p.m. ET. Asay has no other pending petitions with the Supreme Court.

Asay was convicted in 1988 of the racially motivated murders of two men in Jacksonville the previous year.

A jury found him guilty of killing Robert Lee Booker – who was black – and Robert McDowell. Before he shot Booker, he called him a racial epithet, according to WJAX.

Prosecutors said he killed McDowell, who was dressed as a woman, after saying he would pay him for sex, the station reported.

The planned execution marks Florida’s first since a US Supreme Court ruling temporarily halted the practice in early 2016, saying the state’s sentencing process was unconstitutional because it gave judges, rather than juries, too much power in deciding whether to execute an inmate.

Since then, Florida passed a law requiring a unanimous jury recommendation for the death penalty, and Gov. Rick Scott rescheduled Asay’s execution for Thursday.

The state will use etomidate as one of three drugs in the lethal injection, marking the first time the sedative has been used in an execution, according to WJAX. Etomidate will be a substitute for midazolam, a drug that has become harder to get because some drug manufacturers don’t want it used in executions.

One midazolam manufacturer, West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, filed a brief in support of eight inmates in Arkansas in April, saying it tries to ensure its medication isn’t used in executions.

Etomidate, an intravenous anesthetic, was invented by scientists from Janssen Pharmaceuticals in the 1960s, according to Greg Panico, a spokesman for the company.

“Janssen discovers and develops medical innovations to save and enhance lives. We do not promote the use of our medicines for indications that have not been approved by regulatory authorities, such as the US FDA,” Panico said in a statement. “We do not condone the use of our medicines in lethal injections for capital punishment.”

This month, the Florida Supreme Court rejected arguments from Asay’s attorneys the new drug would cause too much pain, according to WJAX. The state’s highest court turned down a motion to block the execution, saying the inmate had not shown it would lead to more pain.

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