Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Thrasher Examines Execution Chamber House Speaker Backs Electric Chair

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Thrasher Examines Execution Chamber House Speaker Backs Electric Chair

Article excerpt

STARKE -- House Speaker John Thrasher absolutely refused yesterday to sit in Florida's electric chair.

Despite prompting from a reporter during a tour of the death chamber at Florida State Prison, Thrasher declined to take a seat in the huge wooden chair and quickly stated, "I'm prepared to leave now."

Thrasher, an Orange Park Republican, came to the prison to get a "firsthand look" at the electric chair, the state's designated form of execution that is now under a constitutional review by the Florida Supreme Court.

On their way to the death chamber, Thrasher and four other lawmakers walked past the X-wing where inmate Frank Valdes was recently killed. Valdes' cell, No. 2202, remains sealed with red police tape and was guarded by four prison officers.

After asking a few questions about the operation of the chair, Thrasher and his entourage quickly left the prison and held a news conference. The speaker reaffirmed his stance in favor of the electric chair.

During the news conference and half-hour tour, Thrasher avoided discussions of the Valdes incident, which has led to the suspension of nine prison guards and a state and federal investigation into Valdes' death and other reports of abuse in Florida prisons.

"It's about true justice," Thrasher said of the electric chair. "It's important to say I have been down here to see it."

The electric chair has been under a legal challenge twice in the past two years, the latest challenge resulting from the July execution of Jacksonville murderer Allen Lee "Tiny" Davis who bled from the nose during his electrocution.

A state judge in Orlando ruled last month that the chair was constitutionally acceptable, but lawyers for condemned killer Thomas Provenzano have asked the state Supreme Court to determine if the chair violates the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment. …

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