Inmate Challenges Electric Chair's Use Cruel, Unusual Punishment Argued

The Florida Times Union, July 28, 1999 | Go to article overview

Inmate Challenges Electric Chair's Use Cruel, Unusual Punishment Argued


ORLANDO -- A lawyer for Death Row inmate Thomas Provenzano argued yesterday that three botched executions in Florida's electric chair this decade show a pattern of cruel and unusual punishment.

Death Row inmates Jesse Tafero, Pedro Medina and Allen Lee "Tiny" Davis experienced pain and suffering when they were executed in Florida's electric chair in violation of the state and U.S. constitutions, said attorney Martin McClain.

Flames erupted during the executions of Tafero and Medina, respectively in 1990 and 1997. During Davis' execution this month, blood gushed from the mask covering his face, poured over his collar and chest and then oozed through the buckle holes on the chest strap holding him in the oaken chair.

"There is a substantial risk of pain, of unnecessary pain, associated with the method of execution," McClain said during a hearing in Orange County Circuit Court.

Several witnesses for Provenzano testified that they saw large amounts of blood on Davis. But Florida State Prison physician Victor Seryutin testified that it was "one teaspoon, not much more."

"It was not serious bleeding," Seryutin said.

Provenzano challenged the legality of the electric chair after Davis' July 8 execution. Only four states -- Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Nebraska -- use the electric chair as the sole method of execution.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Nunnelley argued that there was no pattern of cruel and unusual punishment in the electric chair's use.

"The facts of what happened in two of the cases are already determined," Nunnelley said of the Tafero and Medina cases. …

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