A central Florida man convicted of stabbing to death his young daughter, his ex-wife and her mother and sister 30 years ago has been executed months after his execution was postponed so attorneys could litigate whether a sedative used in Florida's executions was constitutional.
Jerry Correll was executed on Thursday for the fatal stabbings of his former wife, Susan Correll; their 5-year-old daughter, Tuesday; Susan Correll's mother, Mary Lou Hines; and Susan Correll's sister, Marybeth Jones. It will be Florida's first execution since last January.
Correll, 59, had been scheduled for execution last February, but it was put on hold as his attorneys in Florida and attorneys at the U.S. Supreme Court in a separate case out of Oklahoma argued over whether a sedative used in the execution protocol was effective in knocking inmates out. The sedative, midazolam, is one of three drugs used in executions in Florida and some other states.
Several other states use sedatives such as pentobarbital and sodium thiopental, which have been in short supply due to restrictions placed on their use for the death penalty by manufacturers and the European Union, forcing some states to delay their scheduled executions.
Midazolam had been used in executions where inmates gasped and made noises before dying. In Oklahoma, Clayton Lockett writhed on the gurney, moaned and clenched his teeth for several minutes before prison officials tried to halt the process. Lockett died after 43 minutes. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last June in an Oklahoma case that the use of midazolam was constitutional.
Florida Department of Corrections spokesman McKinley Lewis said in a statement that his agency has the proper equipment to carry out Correll's execution, but he wouldn't discuss anything about its supply of execution drugs.
Correll's attorneys have argued that his history of alcohol abuse and subsequent brain damage would render midazolam ineffective in knocking him unconscious. The sedative is followed by drugs that cause paralysis and stop the heart.
After the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling, Correll's case was sent back to a court in Orlando to determine whether the sedative would work on Correll. After listening to medical experts, a state judge ruled that Correll's execution could take place.
Correll's attorneys also argued that the time he had spent on death row amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Earlier this month, the Florida Supreme Court rejected all those arguments, saying Correll's attorney had failed to how he would suffer if midazolam was used.
Correlll's lawyers, Raheela Ahmed and Maria Perinetti, didn't return phone calls, but in recent court filings they asked the Florida Supreme Court to postpone his execution until the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in a separate case on whether Florida gives judges too much power in deciding death-penalty sentences. Arguments in that U.S. Supreme Court case were heard earlier this month.
"While the harm to Correll would be irreparable if a stay is not granted, Florida, in comparison, will suffer little appreciable harm," Correll's attorneys said in a recent filing.