Manuel Valle faces execution this afternoon (4pm EST), despite serious concerns raised by his lawyers over the ‘arbitrary’ signing of his death warrant by Governor Rick Scott.
Governor Scott, who has admitted publicly that he did not know signing death warrants would be his responsibility when he decided to run for office, chose Cuban national Valle as his first execution earlier this year.
Mr Valle, who also has strong family ties to Spain, has suffered from a raft of failures of justice on the part of the State of Florida. These have ranged from denial of a clemency process to a lack of consular notification on his arrest – echoing the case of Humberto Leal, a Mexican executed by Texas in July amid a storm of protest. He is also set to be the first prisoner executed by Florida with a new drug, defying warnings from its manufacturer that it is not intended for such use.
Mr Valle’s lawyers have submitted an urgent petition to the US Supreme Court, arguing that Governor Scott’s authority to sign death warrants - and his absolute discretion to decide who lives or dies - violates the Eighth Amendment requirement that there be a principled way to distinguish between who is executed and who is not. The petition states:
“the Florida Governor’s absolute discretion and standardless power to sign death warrants—a power unfettered by the myriad safeguards and oversights of the judicial system such that all but three states choose to entrust that power to the courts, a power that preempts the Florida judiciary’s death sentences to ultimately determine the minority of death row inmates that will actually be punished by execution and the majority of inmates that will actually be punished by life imprisonment on death row—is subject to the Eighth Amendment capital sentencing requirements of Furman v. Georgia such that in this case it was exercised to sign Petitioner’s death warrant in an unconstitutionally arbitrary and capricious manner.”
Reprieve investigator Maya Foa said:
“It is bad enough that such arbitrary power over life and death should be given to one man. What makes it even worse is that Governor Scott was so ignorant of these issues when he decided to run for office – and has subsequently signed the warrant for a prisoner who has suffered multiple failures of justice at the hands of the State.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell or Katherine O'Shea in Reprieve's press office: +44 (0) 207 427 1082 / +44 (0) 7791 755 415
2. On the subject of signing death warrants, Governor Scott has said: "It's not what I ran on, and I only learned about it during the race." St Petersburg Times, 16-07-2011
3. Further information about Manuel Valle can be found on Reprieve's website. A summary of the key failings by the State of Florida in the case against him can be found here.
4. The relevant text from the petition to the US Supreme Court concerning the Florida Governor's discretion to sign death warrants is available online.
5. Last night, Florida's Supreme Court refused to consider claims by a leading neurologist that the state's new execution procedure, due to be trialled today on Cuban Manuel Valle, is unlawful. Dr David Nicholl, who uses drugs produced by pharmaceutical firm Lundbeck in his work, had submitted an Emergency Writ of Quo Warranto to Florida's Supreme Court seeking to stop the state's execution of Manuel Valle, due to be carried out at 4pm today (EST). The petition had sought to stop Florida's Department for Corrections from using Lundbeck's pentobarbital as part of its lethal injection procedure, noting that the drug has not been tested, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved it, the Controlled Substances Act bans it for non-medical use and the drug's manufacturer, Lundbeck, opposes its use in executions.
6. Reprieve,a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.
Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ Reprieve’s EC Project identifies and assists prisoners with European connections who are facing the death penalty in the USA. Reprieve's Stop Lethal Injection Investigation seeks to stop the use of medical technology in executions.